Comments on the Centennial Mills

Comments on the Centennial Mills

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13 Comments on "Comments on the Centennial Mills"

  • Thank you for holding this public meeting regarding Centennial Mills.

    I would like to see the original promise of Centennial Mills delivered. Important structures should be saved, open space available for the public, retain and showcase the history, and connect with the river. I think Harsch is on track with the idea of less structures and more open space. A museum, community and event center would seem right at home.

    Portland is losing a lot of historic or architecturally significant buildings. Centennial Mills represents a unique chance to save a structure that represents an industry that played such a crucial role in the development of Portland. Combine that with its place on the river and you have a unique historic structure and opportunity. Portland is in danger of throwing that away. It would be a shame to lose it.

    I believe that the PDC has really dropped the ball with managing this site. After the mill was recognized by the city as having historical value and worth saving, the PDC did little or nothing to prevent decay. Leaving holes in the roof open, letting water into the structures. How is that even reasonable?

    I participated in the public process after the framework was developed. I participated in the visioning, and was very excited about the LAB project. Only to have that thrown away because PDC changed the requirements, without public input, to something that LAB has no experience developing. And it seems that Harsch’s proposal was given about the same amount of respect.

    It seems that once Mr. Quinton was hired as Executive Director PDC when from an organization that was inclusive, engaging and listened to the public to one that went through the motions of public process but really just wants to do what it wants, behind closed doors. The lack of respect for the public after the amount of time we contributed was disappointing to say the least. I think Mr. Quinton needs to be reminded that PDC stands for Portland Development Commission not Patrick’s Development Commission.

    Centennial Mills is important, it should be preserved for the entire city now and for the future.

    Thank you again for calling this meeting and you have my support to save as much as possible going forward.

    Ken Aaron
    Pearl District Resident

  • On the morning of January 22, 2016, the city planners of Portland woke from a collective deep slumber, fumbled for a warm wrap, and looked outside. They could barely make out the shifting outline of Centennial Mills in the distance, shrouded by a heavy mist. Suddenly, the mist lifted. And then the planners understood.

    They saw horses at the site. Yes, these were the city-owned horses who serve the mounted patrol; but the police-ness of these horses wasn’t so important. What mattered was their horse-ness. The presence of horses improves quality of life for humans. Bonds between humans and horses increase oxytocin levels while lowering stress hormones. The presence of horses alone defined the site as a community center.

    So Centennial Mills became an equine-oriented community center. There was a downtown barn with daily (instead of weekly) public tours and a training arena where people were always welcome to hang out and observe. Neighbors enjoyed congregating outside the arena because just being around horses is a calming influence for people.

    The Historical Society was also relocated to Centennial Mills. So there was something for everyone at this destination.

    Back at the barn, neighborhood teenagers applied for rotating intern positions to assist the stable attendants. And the stable attendants spent more time answering visitor questions. (There is a need to educate people about new methods of horse care because, although well-intended, many traditional methods are more accurately termed abuse now. So educational outreach is important.)

    All this neighborhood involvement increased security at the site. And the best thing about it was that, as a result – in a nationwide first – city children were growing up around horses. They were learning from horses the value of honesty because horses don’t lie. They were learning from horses how to get along with each other. So they could grow up to become more compassionate people.

    And it happened in Portland first.

    Just think … We set a national precedent! Public schools “adopted” horses. Mutual aid culture became core curriculum. Draft horse became the official City of Portland animal. Everybody read Linda Kohanov’s The Power of the Herd: a Nonpredatory Approach to Social Intelligence, Leadership, and Innovation (2013).

    And everyone in Portland lived happily ever after.

  • Joan Pendergast says

    So many creative people working together to make this site a treasure for the whole city.

  • J. Erb says

    To: Portland Development Commission,
    re the Centennial Mills Project

    Please deliver the original promise you made to the community for the Centennial Mills Project, namely:

    1) Save the very important historical structures, including the iconic Flour Mill with its water tower, and the large building north of the Flour Mill. These buildings define the Portland skyline. They were key parts of Portland’s commercial history and success. They should not be leveled, nor replaced with generic office or living space.

    These buildings are a huge part of The Fields Park experience, which has clearly been a success for Portland. Wedding pictures are frequently taken with them in the background. They were the backdrop to Portland Trailblazers television commercials – the buildings are iconic and defining to Portland. Residents in the area such as myself love these old buildings. Secure the environmental risk on the river side, but please leave them be.

    2) Create open, grassy space for the public, and
    3) Develop a way for citizens to connect with, and access, the river in some meaningful way.

    Some commercial development may be required to finance the above, but these should be the top priorities. A museum, community and event center, and a pedestrian bridge would all be wonderful, and would get used by visitors and the citizens of Portland. But if those are not fiscally feasible right now, at least accomplish the basics above.
    Development is scalable. Perhaps PDC was overwhelmed by all the options – but the above is a simple, basic approach that is far superior to the current state of play at the site, which is No Plan and Some Demolition.

    You have a duty to the public to prudently manage properties you acquired with public funds. That includes carefully considering written public input such as this, and reaching out to the community stakeholders. Many Portland residents, particularly those who live near Centennial Mills and see it every single day, care deeply about this project. Please consider this and all other public input, and the input of the Pearl District Neighborhood Association – they very ably represent the wishes of the Pearl District residents, particularly on this project.
    Thank you for your consideration.

    J. Erb
    Pearl District Resident

  • Paula Amato says

    This is no doubt a complicated issue. I don’t think Portlanders, especially transplants, have an appetite for unsafe buildings nor exorbitant (beyond reasonable) costs to restore historic ones. In an ideal world yes, but not given the practical budget constraints and competing demands, even with Harsch’s significant and generous investment. I was intrigued by the options of preserving symbolic portions of the existing structures eg. the water tower, and perhaps recycling as much of the old building materials as possible to be used in new construction. I too am a fan of the less is more approach and support a plan that would include significant public green space and some revenue-generating buildings such as a museum and/or community/event center that would allow people to engage with the river.

  • Centennial Mills: the new home of the Oregon Historical Society (OHS) and Portland’s Mounted Patrol Unit (MPU). Both organizations serve the community and both are destinations for school tours. The site also serves as a meeting place/conference center.

    Inside the OHS is a hall used for lectures, conferences, maybe concerts. It is shared by the MPU who uses it for educational outreach. There is also a shared book/gift store. The OHS once owned one, and the MPU used to sell memorabilia in a barn nook. A new shared store with coffee bar could be loosely modeled on the one at the Portland Art Museum.

    Please consider:

    This neighborhood is cacophony: a mishmash of unpleasant sounds at loud volume. The noises comes from train horns (blasting most frequently between 1am and 5am since you initiated the “quiet zone”), train signals, traffic on Naito Parkway, traffic on the Fremont Bridge, and river dredging. There is no escape – raising stress levels.

    This neighborhood is crowded: three more apartment buildings open this summer adding another 3, 000 people and 1,500 dogs to the neighborhood. ( conservative count) People are displacing wildlife: no ducks nested at Tanner Springs Park last year.

    PROVIDE VISUAL RESPITE. You can provide agitated residents with visual relief by keeping the design simple. Nothing sleek; nothing fancy. Keep it natural. Keep it economical. Horses are beautiful. The river is beautiful. If you build a bridge, make it a simple reference to something historical.

    There is severe weather at this end of the river. Unlike the south waterfront, this end is windy year round and it can be bitterly cold. Also, strong smells drift in from breweries, industry, and, of course, horses. So the site is inappropriate for outdoor gatherings.

    Also, keep in mind that the horses are used to visiting with people at the southwest corner of the arena and pooping in the far northeast corner. (Given the choice, many horses would rather not just go wherever they happen to be standing.) Horsey smells are therefore stronger at the south end – which is okay. Just don’t expect people to gather there. The horses won’t like it.

    As an equine-oriented community center, there will be places to stroll, places to lean while watching the horses, and sitting ledges. Public group activities will be accommodated inside the part of the building that houses the OHS where there is shelter from the wind, the noise, and the smells.

  • I wasn’t able to make this meeting but I have been advocating for the Centennial Mills site for now going on 12 years. Yes 12 years and attended the meetings and proposals around 2008.

    I wrote this letter:

    The news that the Centennial Mills complex may end up razed is the most bitter pill of all in the continued demolishing of Portland’s landscape. It is an unacceptable solution. Portland is at an amazing crossroads of who she wants to become. To wipe out the historic mill site from existence will only come to one conclusion: We all lose.

    Portland has messed up before. “In the Case of the Missing Park Blocks” Portland historian Eugene E. Snyder writes about how a string of unfortunate events and decisions cost Portland to lose the continuous green space of the South Park Blocks. Before the blocks were lost for good, Portland had the opportunity to buy the land at a higher price and stubbornly refused. Centennial Mills has succumb to the same string of bad fortune and lost advocates. It’s really heartbreaking and our hope is running out. Will we be stupid and stubborn? I’m sorry but losing history of this magnitude will have it’s own price even if we think it’s too expensive or worth the while.

    Many of us understand that much of the old Mill complex after a decade of juggling is destroyed beyond saving as much as we hoped. But I believe we can come up with an acceptable plan to save the two most important structures or at least shells and also rebuild a historical wharf with an outdoor museum dedicated to Portland’s waterfront history. Do not mess up Portland. Save Centennial Mills.

    Carye Bye, NE Portland

  • Lianne and Rollin Bannow says

    Didn’t attend the recent meeting but have interest in the issue. Sent the letter below to the PDC, the Mayor, and members of the City Council:

    There has recently been information in the news about decisions regarding development of the Centennial Mills site, an iconic symbol of our city’s economic past.

    Portland has received kudos for developments that have integrated elements of our history without compromising what is needed to create modern, fully functioning facilities. This same approach should apply to Centennial Mills.

    We recognize that there are other development priorities under consideration, but we are certain the city would ultimately regret not taking advantage of the opportunities that the mill offers: a location and key architectural elements with the potential to create a landmark attracting residents and tourists alike. Our hope is that speculation implying the total razing of the site is off the mark.

    We strongly believe that the easiest, quickest solution for the site is not necessarily the best one. We encourage you to focus on a plan that retains portions of the mill and that creates a development that is uniquely Portland.

  • Jane Emrick says

    The letter below was also sent to the city powers that be:
    I have lived in Oregon for 53 years. I have lived on the Willamette River next to Centennial Mill and across from the grain storage for only 8 years but I have discovered a new Oregon. Until I moved onto the river I was completely blind to the historic and significant role grain and this river have played in the state ~ and from our windows we watch commerce continue today, nearly unchanged, as it has for 200 years. Others in Oregon have a right to become as fascinated with this history as we have. Give the long conversation citizens and the city have had since 2000 over how to honor this history on the Centennial Mill grounds, we were shocked to see a demolition begin and are pained daily as the tear down moves ahead bite by bite. We had no idea how this could happen since we’ve been patiently waiting to see the planned renovation begin, understanding what a vibrant entity this could be. A week ago I found out that some city person or agency made the decision to start demolition without any citizen input on this new direction.

    We sincerely believe if full demo occurs it will be a scar on this administration and Portland in general that will be discussed with regret for many years to come. These chances are as rare as hen’s teeth and what better site to memorialize our state’s grain and river history than with the Mill ~ easily accessible to visitors from across the state and country. Many cities across the U.S. have taken such a tired, past its’ prime site, salvaged what was best and crafted exciting centers of commerce and tourist activity along with museums that honor the heritage of place.

    Of course we recognize it would take millions of dollars! And PDC has projects that seem more pressing perhaps. But having seen many public/private enterprises be funded in recent years through adept fundraising efforts, we have no doubt this would also be a winner. Please reconsider the possibilities for the Mill ~ stop the demolition and once again include the public in the conversation. This is a treasure for all of Oregon ~ an opportunity to understand from where we came.

  • dodd fischer says

    The mayor and port leaders should call a public meeting for more discussion with private real estate leaders—an open forum, all in a room together.

  • Leslie Gee says

    I am thankful for Jordan Schnitzer’s work and vision and longstanding efforts to create beautiful and invited public spaces in Portland and elsewhere. One of my favorite places in Portland is Director Park. What a welcoming, comfortable place in the midst of a crowded downtown, a space where community, commerce, and public can come together. The public spaces in Portland, the natural beauty, and the creative energy and resourcefulness of the people who live here make this city great.

    My family moved to what was once the edge of the Pearl with the hope that its public space and mixed use buildings would create the environment we wanted: a smaller footprint, the ability to use fewer resources like electricity and water and to rely less on our automobiles to transport us to the places we wanted to be. We are sometimes surprised by the hostility of people who criticize those of us who exchanged our larger, less energy-efficient houses for smaller spaces near the downtown, but we feel it’s useful to remember that a dense urban city center can offer livable space to its inhabitants there when there is adequate public spaces to supplant privately owned land. We gave up our private yards (and the water and private and city resources needed to keep them green) and now pay significantly higher taxes for significantly less space. We gave away a car and halved our electrical use. We did so willingly, but, like everyone in Portland, we want to be able to walk outside and see the sky and be able to enjoy outdoor space without needing to order a Grande.

    We are grateful there are enough dental clinics and condos and nail salons in our neighborhood, really we are, but the canyon-like atmosphere of the Pearl can make it a dark and windy neighborhood and the few public parks are small compared to the number of people they serve. If you visit a park on a busy day you’ll see people from all ages and walks of life coming together to enjoy the public space.

    Recently, I took someone for a Northwest river walk because I love walking along and looking at the water. At some point, she asked me why I never looked up from the water toward the ugly landscape across the water. What she saw when sh looked up were decrepit sights framing the clouded emerald jewel of the Willamette River, abandoned floating garbage and rusty ships and broken piers and weeks and cigarette butts and grey smoke and rusted ships. She asked about sewage leaks she read about and about what it would take for the city of Portland to value its waterfront?

    Centennial Mills provides one possible answer. I hope the PDC will some day lift their heads and look up across the water and consider that the heart of every city is its people, not its appointed commissions. We are sorry to learn the PDC commission biases can be so short-sighted. It’s hard to understand why they have not embraced the Centennial Mills project, which will serve the greater community beyond the Pearl. What do you gain by preventing citizens from having access to inviting public space? Maintaining the status quo is not a good answer. If anything should remain the same, it’s making sure long-time residents are not displaced from their homes to make way for new development. Creating new life out of abandoned space makes a city vibrant. Please consider the proposal offered by <a href=" " envisioned here.

  • Scott says

    Thank you for sharing this information with all of us, and letting us have a voice in the matter. I’m with everyone else that whatever we can salvage from this historical area is important, but please do not build another un-affordable housing area. Turn this into a park with some retail or the community center. Something anyone in the city can use and enjoy, not just the ones who can afford a million dollar condo. I’ve spent most of my life in this city and its got so much potential to be even better. Please do the right thing, preserve as much of the buildings as possible and build something for everyone to enjoy for years to come, not just something that someone earns a pretty penny for.

  • I’ve lived in this city for most of my life. I’ve grown up here and to see another building, one that defines our skyline so uniquely is heart breaking. Portland’s history is disappearing building by building, house by house. Over the years, the Centennial Mill has been a source of inspiration for me as an artist. I’ve produced countless prints and paintings based on it.

    I understand that it’s not the prettiest building and that it’s in need of a lot of repair, but please consider the history of it before it’s torn down and built into expensive condos that many of the people who have made this city what it is can’t afford to live in.

    An outdoor space as well as a museum would be much better uses of this space. One that everyone, of every income level, can enjoy.

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