Forest Avenue Landmark Nominations

Status of Nomination

The City Council will hold a workshop on proposed Forest Avenue landmark designations on Monday, October 7, 2019 in City Council Chambers.  The informational workshop will begin at 4:00 p.m.  The workshop is being held at the request of the City Council following an initial public hearing held on September 16, 2019.

On July 24, 2019 following a formal public hearing and deliberations, the Historic Preservation Board voted 6-0 (Wood absent) to recommend to the City Council that the seventeen nominated buildings on or adjacent to Forest Avenue be formally designated as local landmarks.  The Board's recommendation was based on findings that each of the nominated buildings meet the historic preservation ordinance's minimum criteria for landmark designation.

City Considers Landmark Designation for Forest Avenue Historic Properties

Seventeen historic buildings on Forest Avenue and at Woodfords Corner have been nominated for designation as individual landmarks under the provisions of Portland’s historic preservation ordinance.  The Historic Preservation Board is currently evaluating the proposed designations and will soon forward its recommendation to the City Council, which will make the final decision regarding designation

Context of Proposed Designations, Goals

Along Forest Avenue--particularly the section between I-295 and Woodfords Corner—several important historic buildings remain from the area’s early streetcar days and the period when it was recognized as Portland’s “auto row”.  The Portland Planning Department is interested in designating key historic structures on Forest Ave. as local landmarks because it sees them as community assets that should be recognized and preserved into the future.  Just as important, the Planning Department sees historic designation as an effective and proven economic development tool that can spur the revitalization of Forest Avenue.  Historic preservation has been central to the revitalization of the Old Port and Congress Street; the Planning Department is confident that preservation can do the same for Forest Avenue.

As suburban sprawl and roadside development make more and more commercial areas look the same, preservation of historic structures along traditional commercial corridors like Forest Avenue ensures that what makes the corridor unique or distinctive is retained.  Preserving these landmarks can provide the area with a competitive edge.  Studies from across the country have shown that when key landmarks are highlighted and enhanced through sensitive rehabilitation, others are inspired to invest in the area. Quality investment stabilizes commercial areas and boosts property values.

The proposed landmark designations are part of a larger City of Portland initiative to spur the revitalization of Forest Avenue and Woodfords Corner.  Over the last two years, the City has made a number of significant public infrastructure improvements including the installation of new sidewalks and streetlights.  Last year, a striking piece of public art was installed at Woodfords Corner. 

Additionally, the Friends of Woodfords Corner, which was formed in 2015, has become a vocal advocate for revitalizing the area.  Earlier this year, the Friends were successful in gaining Main Street Affiliate status for the corridor, which will provide technical assistance for their revitalization efforts.

Planning and Historic Preservation staff recognize that inner Forest Avenue is likely to evolve in the coming years as the mix of uses changes, USM grows, demand for housing increases, etc.  With these potential changes, there is an opportunity to revisit the character of development along the street. Planning and HP staff see the existing historic structures on Forest Avenue and at Woodfords Corner as assets that should be retained in any future planning scenario.  The buildings identified in staff’s proposal are important on a number of levels.  First, they remain as tangible reminders of the corridor’s history and evolution.  The buildings have architectural merit as well.  In the mix of buildings proposed for designation, for example, are a number of auto showrooms.  The auto showroom is a building type introduced during the early twentieth century with the advent of the automobile.  The former Valle’s Sandwich shop is a notable and relatively rare example of Mid-Century Modern architecture in Portland.  Other buildings were designed by noted local and regional architectural firms. Finally, apart from the buildings’ architectural and historic significance, they are exemplary from an urban design perspective as well.  The buildings are set close to the street, which is the pattern of development encouraged along urban corridors rather than set back from the street behind a surface parking lot.   

Description of Nominated Buildings

Forest Avenue: Early Development & Transportation History