What Was Once Old…

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The development team behind the Hotel Modera is at it again with another major remodel of an old 1960’s style motel into a contemporary boutique hotel. Grand Ventures Hotels and Holst Architecture have reimagined the aging Convention Center Red Lion into a more urban, modern form. Where automobile access used to be king, new retail spaces and pedestrian access are proposed. Street furniture, increased landscaping, and other design elements are proposed to activate the street level, and a new cafe will grace the northeast corner attached to the rebuilt hotel lobby. A grand restaurant with an outdoor terrace is slated for the top floor, as well as the hotel’s ballroom and several conference rooms. The $10 million dollar project looks to completely revamp the building with new rooms, additional retail space, and other amenities.

With the Hotel Modera as a precedent, I have high hopes for how this remodel will turn out. The existing motel, originally known as the Cosmopolitan Motor Hotel long before that portmanteau became commonplace, was built during the height of the automobile age, and has not aged well in that regard. Additionally, the monotone paint job and retrofitted pink reflective glass on the southern and western facades accentuate the dated look of the six-story motel.

In my opinion, the success of the current privately-driven revitalization of the Lloyd District is dependent on changing the long held auto-centric perception of the area into a more human, contemporarily urban scale. The publicly built Streetcar Loop and Multnomah Street bicycle improvements may be seen as catalysts, but the real game-changing project in the district is under construction just down the street from the old Red Lion: the Hassalo on Eighth project by GBD Architects and American Assets Trust. The centrally-located superblock project will greatly change the sense of place of the entire area, but how its density will change the district’s feel is purely speculative at this point. Regardless, a lot of people are closely watching that project as a model for future Lloyd District developments. I am more interested in this smaller project, the Hotel Eastlund (first time I’ve called a full-block project “smaller”), as the inherent issues implied in updating a 1960’s era motel are difficult enough, but it is even more challenging to urbanize a half-parking structure, half-hotel building located between the extra wide 4-lane Grand Avenue and the equally intimidating 4-lane MLK Jr. Boulevard. I also feel that, regarding the Hassalo project, GBD has had a great track record with similar-sized urban developments in Portland, namely the Brewery Blocks, and I believe that Hassalo on Eighth will be just as successful. Under that same veil, Holst Architecture does not disappoint, and the Hotel Modera has been a highly praised addition to downtown, and this project appears equally promising. The development team behind the Eastlund has a lot going for it, and I doubt that this project will be anything but a net positive for the area. Take a look for yourself…

From Places Over Time ● July 18, 2014