Eastmoreland neighborhood battles over historic designation

Eastmoreland considers historic status

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Portland's Eastmoreland neighborhood has become so upset by the number of homes and trees being torn down, they're considering going to the federal level to protect them.

After taking a poll of homeowners later this fall to gauge their interest in the historic designation, they'll decide whether to apply for the designation through the National Park Service.

But a vote by a neighborhood association is non-binding, meaning the board doesn't have to go with the majority view. The board is currently in favor of becoming a historic district.

There are pros and cons to being a historic neighborhood.

While it would stop the demolitions, it would also make it harder to remodel a house.

"I don't want this house demolished. It's a beautiful home," said resident Cindy Russell. Her beloved Eastmoreland home of 17 years is in escrow, but to the last person she ever wanted: a developer. "I cried for a solid month and said no, no no, no and finally nothing came in and we felt our back was to the wall. It was the only offer we got, in all the time on the market, the only offer."

Her 1925 home just didn't have enough bedrooms or a pleasing layout, buyers told her. Developer Vic Remmers of Everett Custom Homes told Russell up front about his plans to tear it down and build two new homes.

It's already happened one block away, where Renaissance Homes bought a double lot and built two new homes. But a national historic designation would stop those demolitions and preserve the character of the neighborhood.

"We really have to grip our heritage and our values, environmental concerns. We're not going to like living in this brave new world where developers rule the roost," said Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association treasurer Robert McCullough. He's been doing the research, and looking at the pros and cons of neighborhoods like Irvington in Northeast, Lents in Southeast, the King's Hill area of Southwest and the Alphabet District in Northwest, which all have the historic designation.

Those in Eastmoreland against it are worried about how it would affect any home remodels or additions. The designation means if you want any big changes to the outside of your house, you have to submit plans for review. Only if it matches up to the original character of the house, will it be approved. Inside remodels are just fine.

But for Cindy Russell, a historic designation wouldn't have helped.

"It makes me sick to my stomach. it makes me so sad," she said.

If her home couldn't be demolished, it might never have sold, and she wonders if she would have had to foreclose.

"People stand in front of our house and point fingers, it's been awful and it's made the leaving very easy because this neighborhood has so many opinions, and they don't understand we have no options left," Russell said.


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