Rejuvenating Estacada’s main street, one building at a time

The long-gone Hotel Estacada.
The long-gone Hotel Estacada.

Snuggled along the Clackamas River, you might know Estacada as the town where you stop in for supplies before heading out to the river or maybe as the home of the now defunct Safari Club that once showcased stuffed animals while diners enjoyed a meal or a cocktail.

Estacada is more than that, with a deep history going back over a century. It started out as a camp for dam builders, then a weekend destination for Portlanders who stayed at the (long gone) Hotel Estacada, shuttled there via trolley line (also long gone) from downtown Portland. The key word here though is: dam. In fact, there are four dams on the river near Estacada built by workers who have lived in Estacada at one time or the other (while earning the nickname “the dammedest town in Oregon,” according to an old diner’s matchbook).

Sure, it’s had its moments—some positive, others negative.

There’s been several decades where Estacada suffered from a negative perception challenge that it was a rough and tumble place on the outskirts of Clackamas County,” says Matt Lorenzen, Estacada’s Economic Development Manager. 

Downtown Estacada
Downtown Estacada

However, thanks to a strong economy and population growth in the greater Portland region, engaged city staff, a forward-thinking City Council, and tools like tax increment financing (urban renewal), downtown Estacada is experiencing somewhat of a renaissance. Several downtown buildings have been recently rehabilitated and occupied by new businesses, including a dance studio, an outdoor outfitter, and a frozen yogurt shop, with help from local urban renewal grants. 

Most recently a Revitalization grant made available through the Oregon Main Street program—a division of the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO)—will make possible the retrofit of the popular Broadway Building, built in 1938. 

“If you do a back-of-the-envelope pro forma on putting a quarter million dollars into this building, it makes no sense whatsoever,” says Lorenzen. “But with these public funds you can do some cool things to breathe new life into a building, and in our case, into a highly visible corner in a downtown that’s trying to come back to life.” 

Renderings for the Broadway Building renovation. Source.

The Broadway Building sits in a key location at the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Broadway. In Estacada, Broadway is considered the “main” street, even though there’s an actual Main Street. It’s the first intersection visitors come to when exiting or entering downtown from Highway 224, and with the public art on the walls, it’s a highly visible building. 

Using historical photography, it was discovered that the building had a somewhat dubious addition to it in the 60s or 70s that Lorenzen describes as “very utilitarian,” and “at any rate its [architecture is] incompatible with downtown and with the corner that we’re revitalizing.”

The goal, he says, is multifaceted in that it will restore the facade of the building, taking a historically incongruent facade on Fourth Avenue and bringing it into alignment with the downtown and with the building that it’s attached to.

SUM DESIGN STUDIO + architecture, the team behind the design, came on board and agreed the Broadway Building was the more cost-sensitive in terms of not having to do a deep demolition and treated it as more of an addition project. 

“We looked at it from a storefront aspect,” says SUM’s Matt Loosemore.  “We’re doing an awning replacement, we’re taking off all of a failed stucco system, exposing the substructure, and then re-stuccoing the facade.” The goal, he says is to scale back the existing two facades by breaking up the canopy line, keeping them at a consistent height, and adding more glass into the center space. “That way, we’re actually gaining an additional retail space.” 

However, because grant dollars are through SHPO, they’re required to follow Oregon’s Secretary of Interior’s standards for revitalization or rehabilitation, compelling the team to respect the historic aesthetic of the building.

The building will have a bit more modern touch, using a steel canopy, with all new window systems. “You’ll be able to see the old character of the building, but at the same time, appreciate some of the newer amenities,” says Loosemore. 

The Broadway Building is just one project out of many helping to contribute to downtown Estacada’s revitalization. 

“There’s a bit of a demographic shift taking place and an economy shifting towards tourism and outdoor recreation,” says Lorenzen. “That shift doesn’t mean just razing old buildings and building new ones, but rather preserving and enhancing and doing it in a way that’s respectful to the past.” 

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