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Levers to Yield a Better Portland Through Preservation

Preserving the Best Makes for a Better City



Retain and Re-use, Don't Demolish

  • Replacing a single-family house with a modern one of the same size takes 50 years to “pay” for the energy expended in demolition and construction…

    • The manufacture of new materials is highly energy intensive, even for so-called “green” buildings.

  • The brick, glass, metal and other long-lived materials in old buildings embody the massive energy used to create them decades ago… energy discarded wastefully when the building is demolished – with still more costs from transporting to disposal sites

  • Carbon dioxide emissions generated in Portland by 823 house demolitions over 5 years are equivalent to the burning of 36 million(!) gallons of gasoline or the annual emissions of 76,480 cars

  • Historic buildings, from a high-cost energy era, often already exploit natural light and air circulation for energy efficiencies that new buildings strive for in sustainable design


Early 20th Century Apartment Building, Irvington Historic District

Equity for All Portlanders

Preserving Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing and telling the stories of Portland's diversity benefit everyone

  • Historic designation and protections applied to neighborhoods and districts of smaller, more affordable housing can slow or prevent the devastation of gentrification-by-demolition which guarantees that current lower income residents will be priced out of replacement housing.

  • Studies show that new residential construction will not be affordable to the average worker until at least 30 years after its construction.  By why wait?  Existing, older restorable residential housing provides “Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing” - NOAH, that can potentially benefit from Federal tax credits both for historic buildings and for affordable housing.


Sound Economics

Giving Tourists and Residents a City to Love Drives Profits

  • Great historic places drive tourism and tourism drives urban economies like Portland’s. 37,000 jobs and $1.6 billion in wages depend on tourism here, but as expert Arthur Frommer (yes, of the travel books) tells us, the link between historic preservation and tourism “… occurs only when a community preserves entire districts, not just isolated structures.All over America we find cities that possess scattered historic structures, and yet they enjoy no tourism at all.”

  • Small businesses drive growth through entrepreneurship and innovation, and older structures typically provide required incubator space for burgeoning new businesses. Their often quirky, imaginatively re-purposed interiors drive creativity and draw the innovators and risk takers.

  • Growth by demolition and replacement favors distant suppliers, often overseas, over local business and labor, which account for less than 50% of the total cost. Preservation project spending is typically 60-70% local labor, benefiting local workers and companies.


Historic Streetcar-Era Mixed Use Building
Piedmont Historic Conservation District

Healthy Historic Places

Return to the future of a car-less urban landscape

  • Physical exercise -- notably walking -- is akin to a "wonder drug" according to the health experts.  But how do we promote it?

  • We not only should make places safe for walking, but we need to preserve interesting, attractive environments that motivate people to walk.  Such place actually make distances seem shorter to people.

  • Pedestrian-friendliness is part of most historic neighborhoods, and their preservation preserves the motivation for people to take short trips on foot, not by car

  • Nearly 20% of all trips under one mile.  These are eminently walkable if we preserve (and create) the friendly, interesting city-scapes typical of our historic streetcar era neighborhoods and business districts


Golden West Hotel, nominated for the National Reguster of Historic Places.

Building Community

Acknowledging a community's history brings rootedness and belonging

  • The buildings and places we save and document as historic tell the stories of all the people who built, worked in, lived in, and experienced them over their long lives.  That shared history ties together diverse members of our community with a narrative of joint participation in creating our city.

  • A broad definition of “historic” allows America’s rainbow of communities to find continuity of place and experience as waymarks of their local history are recognized, honored, and preserved.  Meanwhile these landmarks serve to inform and inspire the larger community as well.

  • We build community by telling our stories honestly and forthrightly to recognize the struggles and roles of both our Native Peoples and the later arrivals who often faced profound discrimination and economic hardship.  Recognizing the full history which underlies our great places builds our community’s appreciation for all its peoples

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