Sam Adams has told the Oregonian he plans to save Memorial Coliseum and put a baseball stadium in Lents. Not only that, but Adams' office says it plans to listen to the public on the redevelopment of the Rose Quarter, now.
The city should complete the initial agreement with the Blazers within two weeks. But Adams said he hopes to set up a deliberative public conversation that gives people plenty of time to comment, with the goal of putting a revised plan for the Rose Quarter in front of the City Council by the first of the year. That would also include details on how to pay for the projects, he said.
"If it really is saved then I feel like the end of Star Wars when they blew up the death star," says architecture blogger Brian Libby, who has resisted the destruction of the Coliseum since the idea was first floated, and has been meeting with the mayor's office over recent weeks. "I'm sort of in disbelief, and so many times in the past we've thought we had a victory, only to realize it wasn't over yet. But this seems like a reason to stop and smell the Rose City, as it were."
Libby plans to meet with the Blazers in the coming days along with the American Institute of Architects, and an ad-hoc group of local architects and designers: Stuart Emmons, Rick Potestio, Randy Higgins, Don Rood and Peter Meijer. "No one has crowned us as the protectors of the Coliseum," says Libby. "We've just been trying to do that because we love it. I don't want to make it look like our group is claiming too much credit though. If the community weren't on our side then our arguments would have fallen on deaf ears."
The aim of meeting with the Blazers, says Libby, is to persuade them to make smart design choices and not try to "create Las Vegas in Portland," with the re-purposed Coliseum as part of the new Rose Quarter. "There are plans that may call for the removal of the seating bowl, and I'd be very dubious about that, and the Cordish company does not have anything like a good reputation when it comes to architecture," says Libby. "But at the same time, this is an affirmation for architecture, for David against Goliath, and for the city."
"More than anything we want to open the communication lines and have them listen to the design community as well as developers and finance people," says Libby. "We just want it to be a well-designed place, and through that, to be successful."
"It's not to say that you can't change anything, but the integrity of the building ought to be maintained if it's going to stay the treasure that it is," says Libby. "But at the same time the Coliseum really needs help because it's been deliberately neglected and left in disrepair."
Libby says the city should look carefully at the re-purposing of the Coliseum, beyond "a Chilli's or an Applebee's." But he doesn't want to be a sourpuss about the victory, and gives credit to Adams for listening to his concerns.
"Other than Merritt Paulson, there's no one who was more involved in the threat to destroy the Coliseum than Sam Adams," he says. "But because of his willingness to listen, he is also a big part of the reason that it is going to be spared. So regardless of what faults he may have, I appreciate the fact that he listened."
"One of the first things that needs to happen now is somebody needs to go into that building and open the curtain, so that Portlanders can see how special that arena is," Libby says. "It's one of the only places in the world where you can have an indoor arena lit by natural light."
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