PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Eight applicants submitted proposals for a new performing arts venue that could potentially replace the Keller Auditorium, but Portland evaluators have narrowed it down to just two: Portland State University and the Lloyd Center.

A seismic study from 2020 revealed that the iconic Keller Auditorium posed major earthquake risks. Built in 1917, the venue would require a major upgrade in order to meet modern-day safety standards — and a major upgrade is exactly what one Portland-based group hopes to do.

  • A rendering of the Keller Auditorium's proposed renovations from the Northwest facade and proposed Third Avenue plaza (Credit: Halprin Landscape Conservancy)
  • A rendering of the proposed Keller Auditorium renovation from the building's Southwest facade (Credit: Halprin Landscape Conservancy)

Over the summer, Halprin Landscape Conservancy gave KOIN 6 an exclusive look at the renderings of a renovated Keller Auditorium. Project leaders claimed the building would have more space, accessible seating, better acoustics and, above all, preserve the Keller’s legacy as Portland’s historic performing arts center.

But as one organization pushed for the auditorium’s renovation, several others were pushing for its replacement.

When the City of Portland issued a Request for Expression of Interest in July, eight entities responded with their proposals for the next performing arts hub: the existing Keller Auditorium, Zidell Yards, PSU, an Oregon Museum of Science and Industry property, the Lloyd Center, RiverPlace, Mosaic Portland and the former ESCO Property.

On Thursday evening, Portland officials announced PSU and the Lloyd Center as the two finalists.

The university’s proposed venue would feature a 3,000-seat auditorium, outdoor plaza, on-site boutique hotel, conference center and educational facilities.

According to Jason Franklin, PSU’s associate vice president for planning, construction and real estate, the university already has an extensive history of collaborating with the city on building projects.

“We look forward to the process of working with the city and organizations across the region to fine-tune our proposal to meet the needs of our arts communities while contributing to the vibrancy of our downtown auditorium district,” Franklin said in a statement.

The Lloyd Center, the other top contender, aims to “Create an energized, welcoming, and inclusive neighborhood that inspires diverse communities to connect, gather, and do business.”

The site would include an outdoor commons area and promenade, connecting the Lloyd Center to nearby neighborhoods and reversing its current “inward-facing, auto-centric” layout.

Both the Lloyd Center and PSU‘s initial proposals can be found online.

In 2024, the top contenders will present their final arts venue proposals to the Portland City Council.