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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Parks & Recreation

Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland

Phone: 503-823-7529

1120 SW Fifth Avenue, Portland, OR 97204

More Contact Info

Pioneer Courthouse Square


With over ten million visitors annually, Pioneer Courthouse Square is one of the most visited public sites in Oregon.  After thirty years of community enjoyment, the Square was in need of significant repair and renovation to address the failing waterproof membrane, the deteriorated brick plaza, structural failures, and stoa column repairs, as well as restroom upgrades for safety and accessibility. The membrane under the brick pavers was originally rated to last only twenty years and had reached a state of near-failure after thirty years, leading to water intrusion and increasing leaks.

In 2014, the Portland community voted to support the Parks Replacement Bond, a measure that resulted in up to $68 million in general obligation bonds. Bond funds are paying for the capital costs of repairs and improvements to existing park facilities. Parks outreach identified strong community support for prioritizing restoration of Pioneer Courthouse Square, the much loved City’s “living room”. Due to a small part of this project (restroom expansion) being eligible for System Development Charge funding, the Parks SDC fund contributed $150,000. 

The 2014 Parks Replacement Bond included a not-to-exceed allocation of $10 million for all phases and costs associated with the renovation project at the Square including:

  • Pre-construction work including surveys and other studies
  • Design and construction costs
  • Construction management and other staff costs

Portland Parks & Recreation, with its partner, Pioneer Courthouse Square, Inc., has worked to ensure the project:

  • Maintained and enhanced the existing character of the Square so as to continue to address the needs of Portland citizens and guests.
  • Provided needed repairs and renovations to the Square’s infrastructure and facilities.

Pioneer Courthouse Square 3D Virtual Fly Through

 (If video does not play, watch it here on Youtube.)

Epic Scan documented Pioneer Square Courthouse using laser scanners. The scanners rapidly measured everything around them to create a 3D model. The scanners also take photographs, allowing Epic Scan to create a short video as a virtual fly through of the model. Starting with a single accurate set of information improves design and communication between building owners, designers and subcontractors, ultimately saving time and money.


Summer 2015 - Fall 2015
Hire design team and appoint Project Advisory Committee members

Fall 2015 - Fall 2016
Design process and permitting

January 30, 2017 – July 2017 (substantial completion) / November 2017 (final completion)

Project Manager
Robin Johnson Craig,,  (503) 823-4182

Public Involvement Coordinator
Maija Spencer,, (503) 823-5593


Since its creation in 1984, Pioneer Courthouse Square has been affectionately known as Portland’s “Living Room”. The Square, a 40,006 square foot urban park located at the heart of the downtown core, has been a public gathering space for the benefit of Portland’s community members and visitors since its grand opening in 1984.  The Square hosts more than 300 programmed events each year that reflect the civic role of the Square within the community.  

The block has a rich history as the site of a City school (1856 Central School), the 1890 Portland Hotel, and a former two-story parking lot in 1951.  The archway and gatework from the Portland Hotel are still part of the Square.  Pioneer Courthouse Square’s visionary design was the result of a national design competition and received an Architectural Design Citation from Progressive Architecture magazine in 1981.  The vision has endured to become Portland’s greatest testament to the strength and endurance of its civic will.  The original construction of the Square was in part funded by “Friends of Pioneer Square” with inscribed bricks.

There are also several significant art pieces in the Square including:

  • Seward Johnson’s Allow Me (business suited man with an umbrella)
  • Weather Machine, a 33-foot tall metal column topped with a large silver orb 1988.  At noon each day, the orb reveals the weather with a golden leaf for a clear day; a silver great blue heron for a drizzly, misty overcast day; an open mouthed dragon for upcoming storms; and a light bulb (reminiscent of a mercury thermometer) that lights up as the temperature increases

As part of the Parks Replacement Bond project, all of the named bricks impacted by construction in the Square in 2017 will be replaced with bricks bearing their original inscription.  If you have questions about your brick or would like to buy a new brick, please call 503-223-1613 or visit

More info about Pioneer Courthouse Square, including events:


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