Irvington Historic District Removal

January 15, 2015 12:45

 Irvington Historic District Removal–

The Irvington historic District was created in 2010 after residents petitioned to keep their district preserved through the National Register of Historic Places. Not all residents are keen on the Historic designation due to the fact that it makes it difficult and expensive to do any modifications or improvements to their properties. Currently there is one resident that is spearheading the mission to remove a 27 block chuck of the neighborhood from the Historic designation. He is not alone in this quest and the matter is actually coming to be.

The section of the Irvington Historic district that is being requested for removal is between NE Broadway and NE Fremont and NE 7th Ave to NE 27th Ave. This is approximately a 27 block piece of what is still considered Irvington. Activists for the removal claim that this area was never really truly part of Irvington and should be annexed from the Historical designation because of that. The homes in this chunk of Irvington are on smaller lots and have less square footage than the original part of Irvington in the SW square. They were built a little later as the area started to grow and have a very different vibe from the grand old stately homes that are considered true Irvington. Out of 707 property owners in this area 563 of them responded, making it 79.5% in favor of the removal from the registry.

The Irvington Historic District is protected from the demolition epidemic that is currently happening in Portland. It seems like every time you pick up a news paper another older home is being torn down and replaced with new infill. Some are pro infill and others are not. Most of the neighbors that voted for the Historic designation in the first place are those that are against tearing down old structures for new. They wanted the neighborhood to stay cohesive and lovely and I must say that the designation has helped do that. Otherwise, Irvington would be a prime target for developers with its large lots and desirable location close to downtown, transportation and shopping.

On the other hand it is costly and time consuming to do improvements on your home within the Irvington neighborhood. I know a fellow who is remodeling a home in the thick of this Historical District and all changes, modifications, additions, window repairs and so on need to be reviewed by the City of Portland and are very costly. One example I have from him is that he proposed to put a beautiful arched dormer onto the garage addition that would fit the period of the home and improve the value and aesthetic greatly. After review the city did not approve the arched dormer and called for a regular angled dormer instead. It was a very interesting case as either would have been period and looked great on the home. Needless to say, the homeowner needed to change the plans and spend more time and money on the project.

Cases like the above mentioned one are precisely why the home owners in this area want to be removed from the Historic Registry. I can’t say that I blame them, especially with older homes things need to be done to improve and maintain the property. Newer energy efficient windows can be installed, new systems to improve energy efficiency and so on. Imagine every time you want to invest money in your home having to ask the city if it’s ok and then jump through lots of hoops to get to the final destination. After awhile I would guess that some just give up and then we have an issue of deferred maintenance on our hands. So which is better, freely allowing homeowners to do improvements, change the aesthetic of their homes to update and modernize or be so restrictive that only those with the time and resources are able to maintain their homes? It’s hard to say, but my thought is if these home owners vote to be taken off the National Historic Registry and fully understand the consequences and benefits of this who is anyone else to say that is wrong? Homeownership is supposed to be the American Dream. We save and search for the perfect place to call home and once we own our little piece of property one would assume that customizing the home to fit our needs would not only be ok, but encouraged.

The Historic designation doesn’t make it impossible to change things on your home, just difficult and time consuming and for some that is enough to stop the process before it even begins. My advice to anyone looking to purchase a home in the Irvington neighborhood is to find one that you like just the way it is. Making improvements to the home without changing the look and structure will help keep the frustrating visits to the city at a minimum. Simply maintaining the historic character on your Irvington home is not as bad as making great additions, modifications or design changes. More shall be revealed with this little piece of Irvington that no longer wants to be. Hopefully if the removal does happen, property values will stay steady or increase, but only time will tell. Without the historic designation that particular chunk of Irvington could see a lot of change, maybe for the better or maybe not.

Written by Amanda Folkestad and Brian Porter