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DELAYED: Iconic Portland Building reopens with community celebration March 19

News Article
After nearly two and a half years of renovation, the Portland Building is opening its doors with a grand re-opening celebration on March 19. Community members can enjoy self-guided tours, public art, live music and getting a photo with Portlandia. All are welcome!

*To protect public health, we are taking the precautionary measure of postponing the grand reopening of the Portland Building. We are disappointed to delay these celebrations, but we need to put health and safety first as our community responds to the spread of COVID-19.

Historic Portland Building lit up at night
Historic Portland Building at night

The Portland Building Grand Reopening Celebration

Thursday, March 19, 2020
2 - 4:30 p.m. (special ceremony at 3 p.m.)
1120 SW Fifth Avenue, Portland

  • Public art: The Regional Arts & Culture Council will unveil new public art installations.
  • Meet Portlandia: See the iconic Portlandia statue rededicated, and get up close and personal by taking pictures with her or a smaller, 3D model. Be sure to tag your social media posts #weareportlandia.    
  • Tours: Take a self-guided tour of the 1st and 2nd floor, including trivia, educational displays, videos and works of art.
  • Live music: Enjoy Japanese guitar by Jason Okamoto and ukulele music throughout the event. The ceremony will include Native American singers.
  • Treats: Celebrate with a commemorative cookie.

If Pioneer Square is Portland’s living room, the City would like to introduce you to its new, and recently renovated, front door: The Portland Building. After being closed for business for over two years while construction was underway, this iconic building is opening back up – and the Portland community is invited to celebrate at a special event March 19.  

Finished ahead of schedule and under budget, the reconstructed building serves as a modern workspace for more than 1,700 employees and a hub for community members to interact with their city government – whether they’re attending an event in new community spaces or paying a bill at the new 311 Customer Service Center in the lobby.  

“The renovation project was never just a building. It was an opportunity to modernize not just our workspaces, but also our culture and ways of collaborating,” said the City’s Chief Administrative Officer, Tom Rinehart, whose team managed the reconstruction. “We put best practices in place and used strategies that ensured our success, and will continue to serve us well into the future. We have big efforts ahead of us and we’re excited to put the lessons we learned into action.” 

Designed by Michael Graves and built in 1982 as administrative offices for the City of Portland, the Portland Building is an award-winning example of postmodern architecture. City Council directed its reconstruction in 2015 due to water intrusion, outdated operating systems and the need for seismic retrofitting.

The transformation serves as a model for future City projects, Rinehart said. It was completed for less than the $195 million budget and achieved targets for sustainability, equity and workplace modernization.

Spacious floor plan of the Portland Building's 15th floor
Spacious floor plan of the Portland Building's 15th floor

“We took advantage of the reconstruction to create a one-stop customer service counter. Now residents can get their needs met on the first floor instead of navigating multiple floors for various services,” said Rinehart. “Our team designed the first and second floors specifically for public events and meetings. We hope the new spaces in the Portland Building are used and enjoyed by all.”

The City of Portland is committed to prioritizing sustainability, and obtaining Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification was always a project goal. LEED Gold buildings use an average of 20 percent less energy than conventional buildings by creating less waste and using energy-efficient fixtures. The Portland Building has met all of the criteria for Gold certification and staff are now considering pursuing LEED Platinum certification, the highest level buildings can be awarded.  

Project staff are also pursuing WELL Building certification, which addresses the welfare of employees and includes achievements in both equity and accessibility. The Bureau of Human Resources worked closely with the project team to ensure the building was conducive to a positive and inspired work culture. Some of the staff amenities include more natural light, collaborative workspaces, flexible areas, bike parking and a gym.

“We wanted to cater to different work styles. We’ve moved beyond scheduled meetings, emails and phone calls,” says Ashlie Grundy, Outreach and Diversity Resources Manager. “People are no longer limited to just sitting at their workstations. They can navigate this environment in a way that’s most conducive to them completing quality work.

Grundy says she wants people to start looking at the City of Portland as a destination employer and says the building will support that vision. “Young people, generally speaking, look for opportunities to have community and connection at work in addition to social impact,” Grundy says. “The City now has a building that’s instrumental to engagement and collaboration.”

Hanging crystal art sculpture
Data Crystal: Portland, Refik Anadol Studio

Home to the iconic Portlandia statue, the Portland Building has always doubled as a venue to showcase public art. That role only grows with the reconstruction, which includes a variety of new pieces commissioned through the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC). RACC’s Public Art Program acquires and cares for publicly owned art. The current installations are part of the first phase of art selected and created specifically for the building.

A large window wall along Fourth Avenue now houses Refik Anadol Studio’s large-scale robotic, 3D printed, A.I. data sculpture, Data Crystal: Portland, which was designed for the Portland Building. Anyone visiting the first floor or walking by on Fifth Avenue will be able to see Neither Here Nor There by Portland artists Shelby Davis and Crystal Schenk. A 100-year-old silver maple from the Laurelhurst neighborhood was transformed into a functional tribute to significant sites around Oregon. Visitors can sit on the installations, which provide new perspectives on places such as Mount Hood, Crater Lake, Mount Tabor and the Columbia River Gorge.

We view the building’s open spaces as a public art gallery, where all Portlanders are welcome to engage with art that was purchased through the Percent for Art program. The works are selected by the community, for the community, and more than ever represents diversity of art and artists in the regionsaid Giyen Kim, who manages the City Arts Program. “We’ve committed to amplifying artists representing underserved communities and have been partnering with RACC to improve representation in our public art program for many years.”

Flat wooden bench-like sculptures with lit blue objects embedded in them
Portion of Neither Here Nor There, Shelby Davis and Crystal Schenk

In addition to celebrating art, the Portland Building project also provided an opportunity to celebrate diversity. Two meeting rooms on the first floor have been dedicated to historically impactful Portland women of color.

Leah Hing, born in Portland in 1907, was the first Chinese American woman to receive a pilot’s license. She also helped raise money for low-income and elderly people, as well as helping immigrants navigate the citizenship process.

Lizzie K. Weeks was a social worker and activist who empowered black women to register to vote. Weeks was the first president of the Colored Women’s Republican Club and also became a probation officer for the Multnomah County Court of Domestic Relations.

Recognizing the power of these local leaders is incredibly important, said City communications specialist Francisca Garfia, who researched and wrote about the namesakes for the new event spaces.

“As a woman of color in Portland, I’m used to hearing the narrative that Portland is the whitest large city in the country,” Garfia said. “Yes, we have issues with diversity and need to continue building up our communities of color, but I think we should also recognize that people of color have been a vital part of Portland and have contributed a great deal to their communities. Lizzie K. Weeks and Leah Hing faced so many barriers due to their race and gender, but they persisted and helped their communities thrive. More community members will learn about these amazing women because we’ve dedicated public space to them.”

  • For general questions, please contact Heather Hafer.
  • For art-specific questions, please contact Heather Nelson Kent.


Heather Hafer

Public Information Officer, Office of Management and Finance

Heather Nelson Kent

Communications Manager, Regional Arts & Culture Council