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The City of Portland, Oregon

Planning and Sustainability

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BPS commissions report on updating the citywide Historic Resource Inventory

Consultant report provides background and actionable recommendations for updating Portland’s 34-year-old HRI

In the early 1980s, the City of Portland advanced an ambitious project to survey thousands of potential historic resources across the city. After four years of professional and volunteer effort, in 1984 approximately 5,000 documented properties were adopted onto the resulting Historic Resource Inventory (HRI), a catalog of Portland’s most important architectural, cultural, and historic places. Listing on the HRI honored the significance of certain historic resources and prioritized them for possible future landmark designation.

At the time of its completion in 1984, the HRI was celebrated as a forward-thinking planning tool that documented the places that were most historically significant to Portlanders at the time. However, with the passing of time the inventory has become less geographically comprehensive and representative of the city’s different communities than it once was. Specifically, the annexation of East Portland (little of which was within the city boundary in the early 1980s), advances in national best practice, and a lack of regular additions to the inventory have diminished the HRI’s utility for research and planning. A newly released report provides the City with direction for how to overcome these shortcomings and expand the HRI in the years ahead.

State policy changes and report recommendations provide framework for future inventory work

In response to requests from the Portland Historic Landmarks Commission to update the HRI, BPS recently engaged in several State policy initiatives to pave the way for future inventory work. Among them, in 2016 the Oregon Supreme Court clarified the role of owner consent in landmark designation, and, in 2017, the Land Conservation and Development Commission amended administrative rules to clarify processes for updating historic resource inventories. In light of these changes, BPS engaged a consultant team to study local, regional, and national best practices in survey and inventory and make recommendations for updating Portland’s HRI.

Photo of the Horsehoe House  Report cover

The 1984 HRI documented 5,000 resources, including this 1890 charmer in the Woodlawn Conservation District. A new report provides recommendations for how the City can advance an update to the HRI in the years ahead.

The consultant team’s report offers 14 distinct recommendations for arriving at a more comprehensive, equitable, and useful citywide inventory of significant historic resources. The report, which is available for download as a PDF, will be presented to the Historic Landmarks Commission on March 12, 2018. BPS staff have begun early implementation of several of the report’s recommendations.

Early implementation of recommendations focuses on digital webmap, social media, zoning code

In 2017, student interns Caity Ewers and Lauren Everett digitized the City’s paper historic resource records, reconciled changes that have occurred since the 1984 survey was conducted, and integrated the resultant data into a historic resources webmap. Following the digitization effort, BPS created the Instagram account @Portland1984 to share stories behind some of the more interesting HRI resources. These efforts improved the utility of the City’s previously-outdated historic resources database and strengthened the foundation for future survey, inventory, and webmap projects.

Map

One of the report’s 14 recommendations is to develop an enhanced database and mapping application for historic resources. A historic resources webmap was developed in 2017 to provide access to existing records while a more functional mapping application is being developed by BPS.

In addition to digitizing existing records, in late 2017 BPS launched the Historic Resources Code Project (HRCP) to improve the City’s inventory, designation, and protection programs for historic resources. Most relevant to Portland’s aging HRI, the project will incorporate recent changes in State administrative rules and codify a process for adopting newly-surveyed properties onto the HRI, changes which are recommended by report authors.

Although BPS has begun implementation of several report recommendations, advancing on-the-ground survey of historic resources will require the City to secure new sources of funding. Towards that end, BPS has applied for a State Historic Preservation Office grant and is requesting that City Council support a one-time budget add package to conduct pilot survey and inventory work in 2018 and 2019.

BPS looks forward to working with the Historic Landmarks Commission, City Council, and the broader community to advance the recommendations provided by report authors to create a more inclusive, diverse, and accessible HRI in the years ahead.

Portlanders gather to discuss designation options for Historic Resources Code Project

Participants discussed options for designating and protecting local historic and conservation districts at the last of four initial project roundtables.

On Feb. 6, 2018, the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability held its fourth public roundtable for the Historic Resources Code Project (HRCP). The last of the HRCP’s initial input sessions, this event asked participants to develop and consider options for local historic district designation. Although no local historic or conservation district has been created in Portland since the early 1990s, new guidance from the State now allows cities to develop local alternatives to National Register designation.

Approximately 40 Portlanders gathered at the North Portland Library to discuss options for the designation process and regulatory framework that might characterize a new program for local historic resource designation. Conversations revealed an interest in community-initiated nominations, designation by an affirmative majority vote of property owners, and district-specific design guidelines or standards. A summary of the event, including participants’ transcribed comments, is now available.

North Portland Library

The venue for the Feb. 6 roundtable was the North Portland Library, a 1912 building built in the Jacobethan style. The library was identified in the 1984 Historic Resources Inventory as an architecturally significant building.

Concepts collected at the HRCP’s first four roundtables will inform planning staff in their development of zoning code language for the inventory, designation, and protection of historic resources. While all concept development roundtables have now been completed, comments will continue to be accepted until Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018, after which time City staff will begin formulating code concepts. If you were unable to attend a public roundtable or would like to contribute further, please consider completing the project’s online survey. Interested persons are also invited to join the historic resources program email list for regular project updates, including opportunities to provide comment on the discussion draft zoning code when it is released in the spring.

February 6 event

Approximately 40 Portlanders attended the fourth Historic Resources Code Project roundtable. Image courtesy Addam Goard. 

Historic Resources Code Project holds third public roundtable

Participants discussed all aspects of the designation and protection of National Register historic districts, including demolitions, new construction and consistency with community values.

On Wednesday, Jan. 24,2018, the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability held a third community roundtable for the Historic Resources Code Project (HRCP) at Taborspace, an event venue in the 1910 Mt. Tabor Presbyterian Church. Approximately 60 participants gathered to discuss Portland’s approach to protecting National Register historic districts, detailing perceived successes and failures of current processes related to designation and regulation. Conversations reflected the diverse interests of event attendees and resulted in varied, thoughtful feedback to staff are included in a summary of the events, including participants’ transcribed comments.

Recommendations and insights collected at the Jan. 24 roundtable will form a foundation for the fourth and final HRCP initial input session, scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018, at the North Portland Library. This roundtable will explore local designation as an alternative to National Register historic district designation and as a tool that may better serve some of Portland’s historic resources. If you are unable to attend the event, please consider submitting your comments via the project’s online survey.

For more information about the HRCP, visit the project website or contact project manager Brandon Spencer-Hartle at historic.resources@portlandoregon.gov. Interested parties are also invited to join the historic resources program email list for project updates, including information about future roundtables.

Approximately 60 Portlanders shared feedback on “what’s working and what’s not in Portland’s historic districts” at the Jan. 24 roundtable. Image courtesy Addam Goard. 

Participants provided feedback on a variety of historic district issues, including management of alterations and additions

Historic Resources Code Project holds second public roundtable

Participants discussed the purpose of a citywide Historic Resource Inventory and identified opportunities to encourage rehabilitation and reuse.

Example of Italianate-style architecture

The venue for the January 11 roundtable, the 1883 West Block, was included in the 1984 Historic Resource Inventory for its Italianate-style architecture.

On Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability held a second community roundtable for the Historic Resources Code Project (HRCP) at the Architectural Heritage Center in the East Portland/Grand Avenue Historic District. The event sought public input on “inventorying and adapting historic resources,” asking the approximately 40 participants to share perspectives on how best the City might identify and evaluate potentially significant historic resources and encourage the rehabilitation and reuse of significant historic resources through the zoning code. Topics discussed in participant breakout sessions included:

  • Expanding the Historic Resource Inventory to include more diverse types of historic resources.
  • The tension between having a Historic Resources Inventory that is too broad or too narrow.
  • The opportunities and challenges of soliciting crowdsourced information on historic resources.
  • Parking and use flexibility for designated historic resources.
  • Opportunities to increase market-rate and affordable housing production in conjunction with historic preservation.

Read a summary of the event for more information.

The suggestions and insights collected at the January 11 event will inform zoning code concepts developed by the Bureau of Planning and sustainability over the next several months. The next roundtable, “What’s Working and What’s Not in Portland’s Historic Districts,” will be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018, at Taborspace. If you are unable to attend an upcoming roundtable session, please consider taking the project’s online survey.

For more information about the HRCP, visit the project website or contact project manager Brandon Spencer-Hartle at historic.resources@portlandoregon.gov. Interested parties are also encouraged to join the historic resources program email list for project updates, including information about future opportunities for public involvement.

picture of McDonalds from 1963

Few properties east of 82nd Avenue were included in the 1984 Historic Resource Inventory. This 1963 McDonald’s, located at 9100 SE Powell Blvd, was used as a conversation starter for discussions related to updating the Inventory.

Historic Resources Code Project holds first public roundtable

Participants prioritized values of historic preservation in anticipation of next gathering on January 11.

Attendees at roundtable

On Dec. 7, 2017, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability held a kick-off event for the Historic Resources Code Project (HRCP) at the White Stag Block, an adaptively reused building in the Skidmore/Old Town Historic District.

The first of four community roundtables, the event asked participants to identify and describe the value and purpose of historic preservation in Portland. Approximately fifty Portlanders convened to share their opinions on the community value of historic resources, with conversation topics spanning the cultural, social, economic, environmental, aesthetic, and educational outcomes of preserving historic resources. A summary of the event is available as a PDF.

Group ideas from the roundtable   Group ideas from the roundtable

The benefits and values identified at the December 7th roundtable will inform the code project’s future input sessions, the next of which will address technical code concepts related to the identification, designation, and protection of historic resources. The next roundtable, “New Tools for Inventorying and Adapting Historic Resources,” will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, at the Architectural Heritage Center (701 SE Grand Ave.). If you are unable to attend an upcoming roundtable session, consider submitting a public comment form online.

For more information about the HRCP, visit the project website or contact project manager Brandon Spencer-Hartle at historic.resources@portlandoregon.gov. Interested parties are also invited to join the historic resources program email list for project updates, including information about future roundtables.