By Ty Kovatch, Chief of Staff
Many Portlanders are unaware of a historic jewel that sits right on the City's front porch in Tom McCall Waterfront Park. If you don't recognize the historic Visitors Information Center building pictured here, it's because the building is known today as the McCall's restaurant building and it's just a shadow of its former self.
Commissioner Leonard is going to change that. Recently, Randy and the Portland Water Bureau acquired the site from the Parks Bureau in exchange for some surplus property needed by Parks, a creative solution developed by Commissioner Nick Fish.
The building was designed by renowned Portland designer John Yeon and constructed in 1949, and its modernist design represented the early stages of what would become a movement in the design world. Yeon did not produce an expansive portfolio of buildings, but those that he designed have influenced generations of designers, particularly in the Northwest. The Visitors Information Center was also viewed as an important design in its time and was displayed in exhibits at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
The City has already begun a renovating the building, and improvements will include new landscaping that will feature an impressive collection of roses, the restoration of the historic water feature, restoration of windows and building materials from the original structure, and a paint job that will use the original color selected by John Yeon. When that is complete, after many years of sitting vacant, the Portland Rose Festival Foundation will be moving in to have a permanent presence on Portland's front porch.
Randy's vision for the building includes a monument to the City and to the Rose Festival in the form of an elegant neon rose that will be visible from the east side of the city. Below is a concept that Randy generated to illustrate his vision. Graphic designers are working on a polished design for the rose that will be constructed and installed for the city free of charge after a generous offer to the City by Ramsay Signs.
The early stages of the work on the building are underway, and Randy is working hard to get the pieces in place to have the building spruced up complete with the Rose, the water feature, and the new landscaping for a celebration on May 22, which will mark the beginning of the Rose Festival. Subsequent work will ensue to prepare the building for the Rose Festival's administrative offices, and the more challenging elements necessary to restore key design elements of the building.
This is a challenging project that is generating a lot of excitement, and the project has already received multiple generous offers of private resources to assist with its renovation. Stay tuned for updates on the progress of this effort.