Breaking News
More () »

Downtown Portland apartments damaged by fire will be demolished, city confirms

The city has not yet received a permit application because the owner is still soliciting bids for a demolition contractor, so there's no start date yet.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The May Apartments building in downtown Portland will be demolished following last month's massive fire, the city confirmed Friday, although a target date has not yet been set.

The building's owner is still soliciting bids for a demolition contractor, so the city has not yet received a permit application, according to Ken Ray, public information officer for the Portland Bureau of Development Services.

That means there's still no start date or time frame for the demolition, he said, but once the permit is submitted, the bureau will allow the demolition work to begin under emergency authority while the permit is still being processed.

The five-story building at 1410 Southwest Taylor Street has stood cordoned off in the weeks since the May 16 fire, along with the block of Southwest 14th Avenue in front of the building and the intersection with Taylor Street, due to the risk that the damaged structure could collapse. 

Portions of the 113-year-old building's upper story collapsed during the fire and in the days afterward, spilling debris into the street. Ray said the street will likely remain closed for another couple of weeks.  

Residents and the general public are still prohibited from accessing the building, but demolition contractors operating under OSHA safety regulations will be able to enter and move occupant belongings out of the building for retrieval by residents, Ray said.

The smaller adjacent Maxwell Hall building at 919 Southeast 14th Avenue is also currently considered uninhabitable due to smoke and water damage sustained during the firefighting efforts, Ray said, but it is set to be restored rather than demolished. The owner has lined up a contractor for that job and they can begin the work at their discretion.

Portland Fire & Rescue tweeted Friday that arson investigators still have an "open and active" investigation into the fire, but the building now under the purview of the owner and the Bureau of Development Services.

Fire allegedly started by tenant facing eviction

The blaze broke out on the morning of May 16 and quickly drew a large response from Portland Fire & Rescue crews, who used ladders to evacuate residents as flames and thick smoke billowed out of the upper floors of the structure. One firefighter suffered a minor injury when a window blew out.

Fire crews entered the building to search for anyone still inside, but focused their firefighting efforts on an exterior approach because the building's age and unreinforced masonry design meant that it could be quickly structurally compromised by the fire.

One of the building's residents, Garrett Repp, was arrested on May 25 on suspicion of starting the fire inside his own apartment on the building's third floor.

Court documents and statements from other residents subsequently revealed that Repp had a reputation for causing trouble in the building, and the building's property management company had initiated eviction proceedings against him in March.

Repp was indicted earlier this week on 55 counts, including 28 counts of arson and 21 counts of recklessly endangering another person, according to District Attorney Mike Schmidt's office.

Court documents state that Repp had been evicted and the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office was scheduled to physically remove him at 11:30 a.m. on May 16, but Repp allegedly started the fire a little over an hour earlier after encountering the building's owner in the hallway and then shutting himself in his apartment.

Before You Leave, Check This Out