Editor’s note: The original version of this story incorrectly attributed quotes by PSU Associate Vice President for Planning Jason Franklin to university spokesperson Katy Swordfisk. KOIN 6 regrets this error.
PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland State University is set to demolish the historic Parkway Manor in anticipation of building a new residence hall or mixed-use academic building.
The five-story, brick building located at 1609 Park Avenue was one of nine apartment blocks purchased by PSU Student Services in 1969 and has served as a student dormitory since that time. However, 53 years later, the aging Parkway is in such disrepair that PSU’s Associate Vice President for Planning, Construction and Real Estate Jason Franklin told KOIN 6 News that the university’s best financial option is to tear it down and start over.
“The building has an unsustainable amount of deferred maintenance and the improvements necessary to address the deferred maintenance, accessibility issues and seismic bracing, do not make economic sense for Housing and Residence Life,” Franklin said. “The building was not designed as a residence hall and lacks study space and other amenities that are normally found in modern residence halls. The building does not have an elevator, the roof leaks and there are significant accessibility issues throughout the building.”
The Parkway Manor was originally built as an apartment building in 1931 by Harry Mittleman. The decorative, zig-zag moderne was designed by celebrated Oregon architects John Bennes and Harry Herzog, who also designed Portland’s Hollywood Theatre and the Liberty Theater in Astoria.
Not officially designated as a historic landmark, the building is recognized by the City of Portland as a “significant resource,” which the city defines as a “structure, building, portion of a building, site, statue, sign, district, or other object or space that the City has determined to be significant for its archaeological, architectural, cultural, or historical merit.”
Due to this designation, PSU was required to obtain a special permit from the city to demolish the building. With the project approved, PSU is now waiting out the 120-day delay required for demolishing buildings on the city’s historic inventory.
While the historic building offers the old-world charm of a 1920s art-deco high-rise: a grand entryway, repeating geometric designs and full-height brick pilasters, many of its residents have complained about its modern-day problems.
“When the building was in operation, there were numerous resident safety complaints that were a direct result of the building design — first floor windows leading to resident units, unsafe back stair access and difficulty securing the front door from nonresidents,” Franklin said.
Demolition is set to start by early 2023 and is expected to take three to four months to complete. The university said it has no current building plans for what will replace the Parkway.
In an effort to learn more about the building, KOIN reached out to the City of Portland’s Historic Resources Program, which maintains Portland’s Historic Resource Inventory. The city failed to respond.