It came as no surprise that the City of Portland Bureau of Development Services staff approved designs for the proposed Trio Club on East Burnside. As we reported previously, the project will mean the demolition of the Galaxy Restaurant Building – the 1963 Googie-styled Chinese restaurant, that was home to Portland’s first Denny’s. It’s unfortunate that the developer and the City could not propose something that preserved the existing building – something more compatible to the nearby Jupiter Hotel, or at least they could have included some housing in the new design. It also shows that there are flaws in the design review system.

With projects of this size ($1,865.600 or less according to the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability), so-called “Type II Design Review” is hardly more than a single staff person from the Bureau of Development Services, reviewing the project and typically approving it (perhaps with some minor changes). This essentially means that the same person who has worked with the developer throughout the application/review process, is the  same person to sign-off on the “design review.”  It calls into question whether this is really a legitimate review; is the BDS staff person really going to say “no” to a developer after having already guided them through the process? It seems there should be some sort of real review by others, even on small dollar projects.

Another issue with this particular proposal is the lack of consideration given to including housing in the new design. One would think that this location is just the sort of place where the City, County, and Metro would like to see more housing density. Adding it in a location such as 9th and East Burnside, would take some pressure off of nearby single family residential neighborhoods – including some of the east side’s oldest neighborhoods that currently have no protections against redevelopment.

The Galaxy demolition/Trio redevelopment, provides yet another example of Portland’s inability to halt needless demolitions of functional buildings – whether historic or not. Once again the City of Portland has hidden behind their veil of  “no designation – no protection.” While we should expect that “designated” buildings have some level of protection, we should also acknowledge that not every building in the city is worthy of historic designation. In the 21st century, with dwindling natural resources and the ongoing environmental impacts of building material waste, isn’t there a way we can prevent needless demolition that doesn’t throw historic preservationists under the bus?