Author: John Chilson

Posting from Instagram

Are you on Instagram? Let’s connect here. 

I’ll occasionally be posting photos from the Lost Oregon Instagram account to fill in between posts, start conversations and share photos that I’ve taken around Portland and Oregon, usually cool architecture, older buildings, industrial sites, etc. And I don’t plan on it becoming a pure photo site populated automatically with pics.

First pic up: Mid-century building, United Welding Supply, taken on MLK.

#modern #pdx

A photo posted by John Chilson (@lostoregon) on

The Jennings Hotel: new life through Kickstarter?

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There’s a new Kickstarter campaign to renovate The Jennings, a wilted 100-year-old hotel in Joseph, Ore. And the individual behind the campaign, Greg Hennes, has some cool ideas to make the old hotel a destination spot for visitors.

The hotel has been a landmark in Joseph for more than 100 years. It’s sat vacant or underutilized for more than 30 of those years, a victim to some unfortunate 70s remodeling decisions.

Hennes, who runs Clutch Camera, a photo rental shop and studio here in Portland, purchased the old hotel and plans to use Kickstarter funds to transform the hotel, with the help from designers and craftspeople.

So far he has Lisa Garcia, interior designer and founder of Soñadora Handmade, Matt Pierce of Wood & Faulk, and Brendon Farrell, architect and designer of Keeps Limited Edition, in the wings to begin work.

The Kickstarter campaign will help renovate the building but also give these designers a budget to buy materials. None of the designers are being paid. “Many are friends or colleagues of mine and they’ll have complete creative control. I have my own aesthetic and each of these artists will bring their own aesthetic and make it more diverse,” says Hennes.

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Hennes isn’t wasting any time getting started – he’s already working on one of the rooms (when finished there will be eight rooms) and hopes each room, with each artist’s touch, will be different than his. If the Kickstarter campaign gets funded, artists will begin work at the hotel this summer. The first room will be ready in early July.

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Local tradespeople will be employed, mostly for specialized labor (i.e., plumbing, electrical) and Hennes will bring in local craftspeople, while artists will featured through an artist’s residency program.

And then there’s the retrofitting of the hotel.

Ceilings in each room at one point were dropped from 12 feet down to 8-and-a-half with a whole new structure with 2x6s and sheetrock. “I’ll have to go through and disassemble all of that and rebuild a new ceiling,” says Hennes.

Most of the windows are aluminum, single-paned and need replaced, as do the existing vinyl floor coverings and textured sheetrock. Exterior work will include brickwork and painting, both huge and very expensive projects “but worth it because it will give it a complete and utterly different feel.”

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Plans also call for balcony (“the only balcony in Joseph!”) access to be retrofitted into a collective kitchen/dining room that will adjoin the lobby.

So far the campaign is doing well – even descendants of the people who built the hotel have contributed – but with only mere days away, it still hasn’t met its goal.

If funded, the hotel will be a nice addition to Joseph and appears to be something the locals would welcome.

“People off the street who I’ve never met have said, ‘you’re the guy doing the hotel. Happy to see something happening with that place.’”

For more information and to contribute go here.

Portland map nerds: Compare 1852 to 2015

Been a bit quiet around here lately. I’ve been writing about beer and new breweries at The New School and doing lots of traveling for work (DC! NYC! Denver! Baltimore! San Francisco! Boston!). I’ve got topics and ideas I’m working on coming soon.

In the meantime, check out this cool map overlay of Portland  – compare 1852 to 2015. It’s fun stuff! Check out the link:

http://drcmetro.maps.arcgis.com/apps/StorytellingSwipe/?appid=7cea8958740b4986905f5debf93e0c77

 

 

Bus shelter, coffee shop: Taking re-use to a new level

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Portland Mall in 1982 on 6th Ave next to Meier & Frank. Source: Wikipedia

When the Portland Bus Mall was unveiled in 1976 along SW 5th and SW 6th streets, shelters that graced the mall were some of the most technically advanced for its time and included amenities such as stylish (remember: 1970s) smoked glass and bronze design, pay phones, and a first-of-its kind monitor system that alerted passengers to arrival times of busses.

When the new mall was unveiled in 2009, the 70s architecture was ripped out and recycled as building materials by the project’s contractor. Sure, one can still see the outline of the old, oval shelters etched into the sidewalks, and the oh-so-70s planters along SW 5th and 6th. But for the most part, the new mall has transformed the streetscape with new shelters, bus trackers and better access to the storefronts along the street. The improvements were badly needed and most Portlanders at the time weren’t exactly bemoaning the loss of the old mall.

“Over the 25 years of the mall, the shelters were showing wear and tear and we just couldn’t maintain them,” says Bob Hastings, TriMet’s architect, who manages the architecture and urban design issues for light rail projects.

Thus began the retrofit of the bus mall.

Called the Mall Revitalization Project, it was “aimed to improve and repair the buildings and businesses along SW 5th and 6th to help increase their participation in the life of downtown,” says Hastings.

However, there is another holdout to our old bus mall. If you’ve recently strolled downtown along the mall on SW 5th, you’ve probably noticed the lone, 1970s surviving bus shelter and the coffee shop inside of it. Located near the former Congress Hotel (demolished in 1980) Caffe Viale, snuggled in an old shelter, complete with transit maps, original signage and icons, takes adaptive re-use to a new level. And it might have all started with a walk around downtown Portland back in 2004.

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The coffeeshop kept all of the architectural elements of the old shelters.

Tad Savinar was working for ZGF Architects at the time and was an urban design consultant for TriMet. While strolling around downtown along the mall during a series of walks, Savinar, also a trained visual artist, was taking inventory of the “existing conditions” of storefronts, such as badly placed awnings, garbage cans in front of storefronts, and anything beyond that. He broke down his walks into 20-foot segments, examining the mall as more of a “human experience.” And then he started to notice the lack of important services – like coffee. Would a coffee shop be successful if it was strategically placed directly on the street?

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Definition of adaptive re-use.

“I knew that all of these shelters were eventually going to come out and I started wondering about things along the mall that could be improved. Storefronts could be improved, lighting could be improved. All kinds of ideas. And one of them was the potential of rehabbing a bus shelter,” he says.

A study found – believe it or not – there was a dearth of coffee service in the area. Savinar then created a diagram of the number of office workers adjacent to the potential coffee spot and discovered there was a gap in service. He then approached Caffe Viale owners – who still have a brick and mortar location nearby – and they were game in setting up shop in the shelter. Money was accessed through the Portland Development Commission’s Storefront Improvement Program who then matched money from the business, as well as money kicked in from TriMet.

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Old signage still exists on the exterior.

Certainly, new construction had to be done, including the addition of plumbing for water lines, electricity and waste lines, but the final product has proven to be a successful re-purposed project that adds life on the street, helps keep some of Portland’s post-mid-century heritage alive. The space also illustrates there are dual purposes and creative ways to re-use and re-adapt unwanted and (mostly) unloved structures, including a bus shelter.

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The old shelter has new life as a thriving coffee shop.

Nowadays, there are just a few more coffee places to choose from, but the coffee kiosk still does brisk business during weekday mornings catering to bleary-eyed commuters in need of caffeine before work. Plus, it’s a kick to peep inside the kiosk and see a part of Portland’s transit history still alive while waiting for your coffee.

“It’s a wonderful addition onto the streetscape,” says Hastings. “It livens the presence of the mall and does a great job of reinterpreting the original mall shelter.”

 

A new direction for Lost Oregon

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It’s not news that Portland is experiencing growing pains. Amidst the artisanal food explosion, unicycle mountain biking, urban square dancing, and the country’s best beer scene (we’re biased), Portland is going through many changes to its neighborhoods.

As new residents move into the city and surrounding suburbs, apartments are being snatched up and developers can’t build new multifamily units quick enough.

Which is all fine.

Except, well, it’s not.

Many smaller, perfectly fine homes are being mowed down to make room for mixed-use housing, many without street parking for cars, while smaller, historical bungalows are being replaced with “historical” looking McMansions, that appear to look like they were purposefully built to not match the existing neighborhood’s characteristics.

Yet, we’re still optimistic. Despite these growing pains, there’s also more innovative design – especially in the retrofit building space – around Portland’s many different neighborhoods. From public artwork to ped-friendly streets to small homes, neighborhoods are reinventing themselves thanks to the close proximity to the Willamette River, the abundance of local food, walkable neighborhoods, and a DIY DNA that encourages small-scale manufacturers to thrive.

Lost Oregon is getting out of our comfort zone and beyond posting kitschy postcards and waxing on watered-down nostalgia. We want to be a part of the conversation to help shape the city – especially in the SE part of town (cough SE Industrial cough). Sure, we’ll continue to explore Portland’s past history. But we’re also excited about the current landscape, newer buildings, neighborhoods doing good things, and smart planning that makes the place.

In a nutshell, we’re moving to the intersection of the past and how it’s framing the present growth of the city. We’ll also keep an eye on the struggle (there are many) to maintain the aesthetics of existing neighborhoods while keeping Portland manageable – a tall order – and one we will explore quite often.

So, thanks for reading Lost Oregon!

Angles on Burnside

Oregon DJC reported last week (you’ll need a subscription to read the article) on the accelerated path that the Burnside Bridgehead project has recently taken.

One of the projects, Block 76W, on a small footprint of land in front of an existing plan, is being developed by Key Development and designed by Skylab Architecture:

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We love the design. It uses an odd corner space creatively in a modern way, with a vibe towards the distance past but not too retro. It reminds us of something we’ve seen. Hmmmmm. Oh yeah, that’s right, it’s this (from the Centennial Exposition in 1959):

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Deliberate nod to the ultra-modern architecture on display at the Centennial Exposition? Maybe. Probably not. Regardless, still cool. And it goes way beyond the condo bunker-look that’s been mowing down Portland’s neighborhoods.