Renovations to Portland Building may risk historic designation

The Portland Building. (KATU Photo)

A well-known Portland building will have a very different look by 2020.

Back in 2015, the Portland City Council faced a tough decision. Renovate the Portland Building at extensive cost or tear it down and build a new building to house city offices. City commissioners chose the renovation option, partly because the building sits on the National Register of Historic Places.

The building is prominent as an early example of post-modern architecture in the United States. Most people may know it as the building where the Portlandia statue resides.

Now that renovation plans are moving forward, that historic designation might be in jeopardy.

The local Portland Architecture blog has a recent post explaining how the building may look after renovations are complete. The blog notes that changes may be dramatic enough to warrant another look at the historic designation. However, dramatic changes are needed.

"It's kind of a rare intersection of something that's really historically significant but really almost needed to be fixed from the time it was complete," said Brian Libby, founder and editor of

The building has become a notorious place to work in. Leaks are a big issue when it rains. There's little natural light. It needs seismic upgrades.

"It was built on the cheap," said Libby. "So it just wasn't built to last. We find this with a lot of mid-century buildings, but you don't usually find it for a building that's only from 1982."

In his blog post, Libby notes how renovation project leaders need to make drastic changes to produce a well-constructed and reliable office building.

The entire cost of the renovation will cost nearly $200 million and should be finished by the end of 2020.

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