Somethin’ for the hometown…
Preservation Magazine has an interesting brief on the Irvington Historic District in Portland.
The article discusses the tensions between Irvington’s status as a “historic” neighborhood and the regional Metro government’s desire for more dense, urban neighborhoods.
Predictably, the article laments the blooming of large, dense, in-fill projects in historic neighborhoods. I do not fault them. It is after all, Preservation Magazine. But, the article’s focus on a specific story of a condo project going in across from a historic Queen-Anne home glances past the deeper issues at play.
Preservation and Density are both worthy causes that are often in direct contradiction to one another. So… which is more important? The imposition of large condo projects in Irvington will, almost definitely, alter the character of the neighborhood. Is that OK?
Minimization, that is creating smaller, more discrete and respectful projects seems like an obvious compromise. Irvington, with is city sized lots, is perfect for this approach. Figuring out exactly what makes a new project “respectful” of its surroundings can, of course, be difficult. It is described in the article as one of the “perennial conundrums of preservation” but I think the solution is clear: ample community involvement and a lengthy design review process.
Really, Irvington is easy. What about Cedar Mill?
As the ethic of “density at all costs” takes over, will Portland’s suburbs go the way of Lost Oregon? With time, early suburban neighborhoods will offer as much historic (and I would argue aesthetic) value as old, historic Irvington. The future tension between density and preservation in suburban neighborhoods is apt to be amplified. How do you create dense housing that is respectful to its complete antithesis? I really don’t think you can. Does that mean the burbs and all of the historical and cultural information they carry are doomed?
What do you think?
Preservation Magazine: Trouble in Green City: Zoning Trumps Design Guidelines in Historic Portland, Oregon