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Washington Park Reservoir Project: HLC Unanimously Approves Type III Historic Review Application

In order to comply with federal and state mandates, and ensure a healthy, resilient, and secure water system, the Portland Water Bureau is moving forward with a project to update the Washington Park reservoir site.

On November 9, 2015, the Historic Landmarks Commission unanimously voted 4 to 0 to approve the Portland Water Bureau’s Type III Historic Review application for the Washington Park Reservoir Improvements Project.

The vote followed an initial public hearing held on August 10, 2015 when the Commission received testimony from the Water Bureau and members of the public. At that hearing, the Commission decided to hold the record open for the submittal of new evidence, responses, and   the Water Bureau’s final argument related to the Type III application. The record closed September 14, 2015. The most recent hearing afforded the Commission the opportunity to deliberate and make a decision about the proposal.

The Director of the Bureau of Development Services (BDS) will issue the Commission’s decision within 17 calendar days. If the decision is appealed, the case will be heard and decided by City Council.

The Type III application describes the proposed project’s historic preservation and rehabilitation actions and construction of a covered reservoir, reflecting pools, lowland habitat area/bioswale, and walkways. These features will offer the public enhanced access to the new surface water features and classically-designed gatehouses, dams, and related structures.

A courtesy copy of the application submitted to the Bureau of Development Services (BDS) is posted on the Water Bureau’s project webpage at Note that BDS maintains the official case record, which tracks updates and revisions over time.

Project Details

Proposed improvements

The Water Bureau’s Washington Park Reservoir Improvements Project proposes to build a new below-ground reservoir in the same general footprint as the existing upper Reservoir 3, with a reflecting pool on top. The lower Reservoir 4 basin and the slope west of it are needed to provide landslide abatement; the slope will be restored to its pre-reservoir condition.

Reservoir 4 will be disconnected from the public drinking water system and a lowland habitat area/bioswale and a reflecting pool are also proposed in the Reservoir 4 basin. Work will primarily be within the Historic District.

The project addresses major reservoir issues, including recurrent landslide damage, compliance with federal law, seismic vulnerability, and deterioration of the 120 year-old structures.

The project includes three Land Use Reviews (LUR). Detailed information is included in the chart to the right:

  • Type IV Demolition Review application: The application proposed the removal of the Weir Building (screen house), portions of lower Reservoir 4’s basin, and upper Reservoir 3’s basin in Washington Park.
  • Type III Historic Review application: The application describes historic preservation and rehabilitation actions and proposes construction of a covered reservoir, reflecting pools, lowland habitat area/bioswale, and walkways.            
  • Type III Conditional Use/ Environmental/Tree Reviews application: The application addresses development impacts to the site, park, and surrounding neighborhoods, tree protection, natural-area restoration, and construction and traffic management for the project.

Before work permits are issued or construction begins, all applications must be approved.

The applications are a result of a robust public involvement process that included multiple public open houses and nine Community Sounding Board meetings that guided design for the required visible features of the Washington Park project.

Additional Information & Contacts
For detailed project information, visit the project webpage or contact Water Bureau Public Information staff at 503-823-3028 or by e-mail. Visit the Bureau of Development Services’ website or call 503-823-7300 for more information on the land use review application process.


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