As SE Portland continues to be split at the seams by development, residents along historic corridors like Belmont are learning the hard way that the City currently lacks tools to keep intact the beloved blocks that define their neighborhood.
More than half of Portland’s buildings are more than 50 years old. Most lack any type of landmark protections. Portland’s rampant demolition is legal if it follows current zoning.
To deter the demolition epidemic, citizens are learning that an update of the City’s historic inventory list is critical. Identifying buildings with significant history and architectural heritage would slowdown, if not stop altogether, the teardown of the buildings and bungalows that make Portland unique.
The 3300 block of Belmont is the kind of streetscape that lures newcomers to Portland’s vintage neighborhoods with main streets even Disney might envy.
Behind the storefronts is a rich historical narrative that residents are plumbing in hopes of saving the block from a planned multi-story glass and steel structure. At a special landuse presentation in March, residents said that the planned demolition of the midblock building threatens the entire block. A petition circulating has more than 5,000 signatures.
The building is perhaps the least architecturally interesting on the block, but residents believe that saving the weakest link, may save the entire block from eventual destruction.
Residents are pinning their hopes on research neighbor Meg Hanson presented indicating that several prominent early Oregonians were among the original owners of the property. Onetime mayoral candidate T.S. McDaniel was chair of Willamette University for 8 years at the turn of the Century and influential in politics.
Hanson’s research is intended to make a case for additional protections of the building. “ We’ve been able to develop a deep and meaningful historic narrative for the building’s original owners, businesses, and tenants from 1895 through 1940.”
City representatives praised her research but said there is no easy way to save the building – or others on the block that lack historic designations. Current zoning allows structures up to 45 feet tall along Belmont. That means one and two-story buildings are likely to come down as four-stories of glass and steel go up.
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