Jan 24, 2024 - News

A trio of Portland landmarks recover, slowly

A man and a woman stand looking at their phones outside the Portland Apple Store at Pioneer Place

Portland's Apple Store lost its good looks when it reopened with plastic windows in 2023. Other landmarks have been slower to return. Photo: Joseph Gallivan/Axios

Portland still bears the scars of 2020's unrest and lockdown, and change is coming very slowly.

Why it matters: Missing or marred landmarks affect the image of Portland. With less office workers and tourists on the streets, it can seem like a recovery stalemate.

The big picture: The Apple Store, the bronze Thompson Elk Fountain, and the buildings around City Hall, are duller and quieter than before 2020's layoffs, lockdowns and unrest.

Zoom in: Governor Tina Kotek and her downtown task force declared in December that the plywood on public buildings "sends the wrong signal to visitors" and should be removed by June's Rose Festival.

  • The Justice Center, the Federal Courthouse and the old Multnomah County Courthouse are all mummified by plywood.
  • The courthouse is being converted into offices, a plan hatched by the owner NBP Capital, back in 2018.

Next door, City Hall is closed for remodeling to make room for seven more council members, with the work is slated to be done by Jan. 1, 2025.

Flashback: The Thompson Elk and its fountain base stood at SW Main Street between 3rd and 4th avenues from 1900 to July 2020 when it was vandalized.

What they're saying: Arts Commissioner Dan Ryan said the return of the elk fountain is about more than a monument: "It's a symbolic gesture linked to the healing and restoration of Portland itself."

State of play: A multi-bureau $1.5 million refurbishment is underway.

  • Work on the new fountain and pedestal will begin in summer 2024 for completion by the end of the year, according to Portland City Arts Program Manager Jeff Hawthorne.

Meanwhile: As for the Apple Store at Pioneer Place, it was once a temple to personal computing.

  • Crowds entered the glass curtain wall at 450 SW Yamhill Street to shop for iPads and phones free of sales tax, in a perfect display of conspicuous consumption.
  • On May 29, 2020, rioters broke the structural glass and looted the store.
  • Plywood protection followed, and despite the efforts of Emma Berger and other muralists, the store was shuttered for nearly a year.

The Apple Store reopened in February 2021 with high steel fences and a security door, after Portland City Council expedited the permits.

  • The fences were removed on March 23, 2023, revealing unbreakable plastic panel windows resembling roll-up garage doors. Its crystal clarity was gone.

It's not chic, but the Apple Store is keeping its polycarbonate front for the foreseeable future.


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