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Planning and Sustainability

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Phone: 503-823-7700

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1900 SW 4th Ave, Suite 7100, Portland, OR 97201

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About The New Chinatown/Japantown Historic District

1932 photoThe New Chinatown/Japantown Historic District consists of ten blocks in the Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. The district is bound NW Glisan Street to the north, NW 3rd Avenue to the east, West Burnside Street to the south, and NW 5th Avenue to the west. The district is zoned CX (Central Commercial) with buildings primarily commercial in their use, though the district also includes residential uses, hotels, and parking lots. The Skidmore/Old Town Historic District boundary overlaps the New Chinatown/Japantown, and therefore ten buildings along NW 3rd Avenue between West Burnside and NW Everett are included in both historic districts.

The New Chinatown/Japantown Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. It is significant in the areas of Asian Ethnic Heritage, Industry, Commerce, and Architecture from the primary period of 1880-1909 and the secondary period of 1910-1943. Primary architectural styles include Italianate, 19th and 20th Century Commercial, Moderne, Half Modern, Mediterranean, and Industrial. The district was found nationally significant under Criterion A “for its history as the largest and most intact Chinatown in Oregon.” It is locally significant “as the largest remaining and most viable Chinese ethnic community in Portland.” However, designation of the district under Criterion C, for the architectural significance of the buildings in the district, was added by amendment just after the district was approved by the National Parks Service in 1989.

Map of New Chinatown/JapantownAt the time of its designation, the district included 45 buildings, 2 objects, and 6 vacant lots. Of the 45 buildings surveyed, 29 were considered contributing and 16 were considered non-contributing to the significance of the district. A single individually listed historic resource, the Pallay Building, was nominated in 1985.

This project will develop Design Guidelines to guide new construction and alterations such as new floor area, awnings, signs, and rooftop equipment. The Design Guidelines that are developed will include a background and context discussion preceding the actual design guidelines, each of which will be illustrated with photographs (both modern and historic) and options for how each guideline can be met.

The 1989 National Register of Historic Places nomination is available on the Oregon Historic Sites Database as a PDF. The nomination provides information on the district's significance, as well as documentation on contributing resources within the district (properties in yellow in map on right).