Q: Who owns the building?
A: NW Natural.
Q: Why has the building been allowed to deteriorate?
A: Manufacturing processes changed, and NW Natural has not had an active use for the building since the late 1950s and therefore has not invested in it. NW Natural has been supportive of committee efforts to come up with a non-demolition solution.
Q: Is NW Natural willing to sell the building? Why can’t it be open to the public by another business or as a museum?
A: It is not feasible for NW Natural to sell the building due to nearby contamination and the business need to control access to the surrounding active industrial site. McMenamin’s looked at the site over a decade ago and it proved unfeasible.
Q: Is the building considered a historic monument?
A: It was formerly listed in the Portland City Historic Inventory but NW Natural requested removal from that list several years ago. Many local historians consider it eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, but that process requires owner consent.
Q: Why save a building which has no prospect for active use in the foreseeable future?
A: Once demolished, an important symbol of Portland’s industrial history would be gone forever. We cannot predict what clean up processes may be available in the future which would make alternate uses of this unique and significant building feasible.
Q: Is the building contaminated?
A: The 103-year old building contains lead and asbestos and other materials which are characteristic of buildings of this era and would require mitigation for the building to be re-used, which would be true of rehabilitating all buildings of this age.
Q: What attempt is being made to clean the site?
A: The NW Natural website contains these points: “Portland Harbor, the portion of the Willamette River located approximately between the Fremont Bridge and Sauvie Island, is significantly contaminated from many years of industrial usage, including the activities of the Portland Gas and Coke Company.” Portland Harbor was declared a Superfund site by the US EPA in 2000, but Federal clean up monies have already been expended. NW Natural built a wastewater treatment plant in 2012 and is also seeking ways to clean the land it owns next to the river, including the property historically owned and used by the Portland Gas and Coke company.
Q: Why will it take $2 million to rehabilitate the building to make it weather-tight and saved for future uses?
A: General deterioration over time has left the building with a leaky roof, broken windows, and similar problems, along with the need to safely remove asbestos and other hazardous materials. Although the building has survived earthquakes (and severe storms) during its long history, it is a multi-story masonry building built on fill and therefore not seismically stable. Seismic upgrades are very expensive.