Next year Pacific Northwest College of Art will move into its new home, the Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Center for Art and Design in the former 511 NW Broadway Post Office building. The building, being remodeled by Allied Works, will allow the school to keep expanding its programs and consolidate some of its scattered elements into a more centralized location. As part of the funding plan, the former site, the Goodman building located at 13th and Johnson in the Pearl District, was sold to Security Properties for redevelopment. The Goodman building has its merits, namely the Holst designed interior and history with the art community (more info at Portland Architecture), but the loss of the old warehouse will be mourned by few and quickly forgotten as PNCA looks to bring new life to a grander architectural treasure. Much like the inevitable loss of the food cart pods Cartopia on Hawthorne and Good Food Here on Belmont, time never stops in the city. This is the price we pay as an urban community for living in an urban community, and I often have to remind myself that the only constant in the universe is change.
In the Goodman building’s place, Mithun Architecture is proposing two buildings, one roughly half the height of the other, with a street-to-street courtyard connecting Johnson and Kearney Streets in between. The low-rise portion will house either office or residences above restaurant and retail space along an elevated dock, keeping with the special 13th Avenue street design guidelines. The taller of the two will be mostly residential with live/ work spaces fronting 12th Avenue. Conceptually, the designers are basing their designs of the West building as the “heartwood,” and the East tower as the “seedling.” Thus the low-rise will be darker, denser, heavier in form, and the mid-rise will be lighter, fresh, alive.
The city appears to like the metaphor and the preliminary design thus far, noting the context of the dark brick and carved form of the 13th building. The larger tower design created some concern for its facade treatment and crown, but as the design is still preliminary, there is plenty of time to work things out. All in all, the proposal looks to be another welcome addition to one of the most revered new urban neighborhoods in the country. The Pearl District has definitely changed over time, and I expect it to keep changing as Portland always has.