Rethink, Recycle, Regenerate: Imagining Portland Centennial Mills

Centennial Mills Redevelopment:
A Pedagogical & ‘Real Life’ Opportunity to Preserve and Play with History


University of Oregon Architecture Studio Engages Students in Real World Projects to
Rethink-Recycle-Regenerate:  Imagining Portland Centennial Mills
A Studio
Ihab Elzeyadi, Ph.D., FEIA
Associate Professor of Architecture | Department of Architecture
School of Architecture and Allied Arts
University of Oregon
Summer 2013 Studio | ARCH 484 /584

How can you make new life from the old yet create a 21st century public place for the city of Portland? What is the process of reusing historical buildings without getting locked-up in its relics? Which elements can we preserve, reuse, while sustaining the past, present, and future for the city of Portland by developing its Centennial Mills? –Ihab Elzeyadi

These are questions at the heart of a UO architecture summer studio–led by Profesor Ihab Elzeyadi and 14 students, armed with their sketchbooks, laptops, and eight weeks of an intense summer studio centered on Centennial Mills.

The Centennial Mills development project has been referred to as one of the largest sustainable redevelopments in the history of Portland.  Since being brought on board last spring by the Portland Development Commission (PDC) to redevelop the property, the project development team of developer Jordan Schnitzer and his Harsch Investment Properties has enthusiastically pursued input and design ideas for the Centennial Mills site from varying resources. [Scroll to the end of this article for background and a full list of partners.]

One important resource has been the engagement with UO Department of Architecture and the High Performance Environments Laboratory at the School of Architecture and Allied Arts.

Instrumental in establishing the connections to facilitate this project has been Tad Savinar, a civic catalyst on the consulting end of Schnitzer’s Harsch Investment Properties.  Savinar invited the University of Oregon Department of Architecture faculty to join Harsch and offer a summer 2013 design studio that would focus on the Centennial Mills property.  Nancy Cheng, director of and associate professor for the University of Oregon Portland Architecture Program was the Portland liaison teaming up with UO Eugene-based associate professor of architecture, Ihab Elzeyadi. Professor Elzeyadi initiated and taught the summer studio, Rethink-Recycle-Regenerate:  Imagining Portland Centennial Mills.

Tad Savinar and students at the final review, Centennial Mills Studio.

Elzeyadi comments on the partnership with Harsch and the UO Department of Architecture:

I [had] investigated the potential of offering a studio to rethink and re-envision the Centennial Mills for over a decade. We had worked on adaptive reuse studios in Portland for a number of years collaborating with the late Art DeMuro of Venerable Properties. This has led to a number of successful “real” projects.

The Centennial Mills project was always interesting yet wasn’t defined enough to tackle… Bottom line—it will be a great adventure… Pulling it together has not been as easy. When Tad Savinar contacted us and invited me to consider it for a studio in collaboration with Harsch, I felt an adrenaline rush to go for it. It felt to me that this was the right moment to intervene on a project I always valued not only because of its historical value but also due to its rich opportunity and great challenges.

The timing was also ideal since we are working in parallel with the design firm and Harsch.  We were also preceding them with some tasks and contributing a great deal of research to the design team.

Professor Elzeyadi’s studio engaged students: “in a real project to develop parallel research and conceptual development on the urban and building scale to adaptively re-use the site and its complex of buildings.  The process both was informed by the work undertaken by Harsch Development as well as informing the design team based on research and academic exploration in a process of collective intelligence.” [Course syllabus]

Reviewer with students, Melissa Anderson and Kathryn LaNasa.

In mid summer of 2013, during the studio’s midterm review, the students were joined by Jordan Schnitzer who intently listened to the students presentations, engaging in commentary and conversation about their designs and addressing them post-review with his own reflections on the project and moving forward.  Schnitzer, who has consistently promoted the project and the site as one that needs to be grounded in emotion and connectedness to Portland, takes a thoroughly humanitarian approach to the project’s overall conceptual approach.  He reminded the students that a useful thought here is to realize this is an opportunity to “preserve but play with history.” Schnitzer enthusiastically complimented the students on their “great ideas” and “the fabulous job” they had introduced with concepts for the Centennial Mills complex.

[View photos from the reviews here on Facebook.]

In what can be described as a rather stirring and heartfelt conversation of advice, Schnitzer continued by asking the students to “balance between dreaming and what is available…always dream, but remember to put yourselves in the shoes of the developer…the client.” In a moment of pedagogical delivery, Schnitzer expressed a sort of reverence for the students’ work, saying “when any of us are lucky enough to touch the land, [we] have an obligation  because [we] are doing something that will result in a better quality is an honor to be an architect, to effect the land and have that responsibility…You have that responsibility.”

Model showing current buildings on the site, from river side.

Schnitzer encouraged the students to stay actively involved and encouraged their future input on making the Centennial Mills project rife with attractions and features that would appeal to all ages and activity levels encouraging engagement with the final outcome of the site.

Along with Schnitzer’s words of encouragement and inspiration, the students relied upon their professor to guide their projects to completion and the final review held August 12 on the Eugene campus.

The University of Oregon architecture students enrolled in the studio have proved to be a significant part of the brain trust and logistical process for the project. At the final review, 7 proposals were pinned to the walls, with teams consisting of 1-3 students.  On site for the final review session was Gil Kelley (Harsch); Tad Savinar; and Gregg Sanders, David Wark, and Nick Byers (all of Hennebery Eddy Architects), among others.

Final Review of student work.

Professor Elzeyadi addressed the assembled group recalling to all the predominant aspects of the project:  to provide open space; to capture history and historic context; to define community focal points; to embrace sustainability; to strengthen connections; to link a riverfront greenway.  Elzeyadi also detailed aspects of the project that provided the guidelines and contextual framework within which the students had to develop their design concepts.  A few of these:  2030 Energy Benchmarks; providing for a hotel, a museum | arts center; utilizing the north-south axis of the complex; recognizing solar radiation modeling; daylighting ideas and micro-climate and cross ventilation opportunities; the integration of greenroofs, rainwater catchment, embodied energy; and context analysis incorporating energy and environmental benchmarks developed by High performance Environments Laboratory (HiPE) that he directs at the UO department of Architecture to integrate performance and experience as guidelines to develop sustainable place making

The students were to design within the following constraints and understandings of the site:  to recognize and envelope historical context of the flour mill, the feed mill, the grain elevator, and riverfront warehouse; to use existing site opportunities such as the greenway and the connections inherent to the site, 9th Avenue, and the existing city park; to work within the restrictions of the existing corridor, easements, setbacks, transit lines, and zoning, as well as within the context of a vibrant urban setting. And, to work with an understanding of the cultural context in addition to an architectural context that would study and embrace industrial, mixed use| retail, hotel and high rise condominiums.  The geographic context that students addressed included contaminated ground, metal debris and air pollution of methane chloride.  Climate context included the prevailing NW or SE winds, sun angle diagrams and sound levels.  Also to be considered was the folding in of elements to make a coherent complex—retail, office, residential and parking that balance a cultural program of a visitor center and a museum

Harsch's Gil Kelley with students.

Professor Elzeyadi relates that the studio was a challenging yet fundamentally rewarding experience:

I offered the students a rich design process and a rigorous work schedule. I’m proud of their professional attitude throughout the studio. Working in teams, they had to vent their decisions together, respond quickly to critiques offered by me in a short time frame as well as respond to feedback from the design team.


It was intense, quick, and rewarding. They learned a great lesson for this schematic phase of design and planning a site of complex multitudes. It has been a sort of midnight summer dream —and, we are looking forward to further engage with it in the next phases of the project through my fall-winter-spring thesis/terminal studio I’m offering in 2013-2014.

The following lists the students involved in this studio and the titles of their projects (a printed publication of their work is planned to be released in the fall of 2013)

  • The Anchor of Portland by CLINA (Claire Seger and Gina Auduong) | Using a vocabulary of solid and transparent, this team created a series of different gestures with a sense of an ebb and flow between addition and removal.  Termed “very evocative” by reviewers, this project “left a sculptural form.”
  • Playground for Portland by Melissa Anderson and Kathryn LaNasa | With a vision to make Centennial Mills into a place where the greenway joins to the complex uniting outside with inside and providing multiple vantage points; Re-uses many of the structures and a bridge that captivated reviewers. . .
  • Centennial Mills Park to Water Redevelopment by Carolina Trabuco and Kaitlyn Rowley | Focused on site connections to the Pearl District, the Willamette River and the greenway.  This plan advocates an “island” approach.
  • Centennial Mills  Sawing the Seeds of History by Elena Traudt | The central feature is the open space that draws in the park, the city, the water. A very organic approach that gives precedence to the landscape and the water, and will benefit from a sense of the “push and pull” of the design .
  • Envisioning Centennial Mills A System of Parks and Axis by Tudor Bertea and David Richards | Interweaving urban life with the site as a threshold.  Bridging nature with retail belts and a visitor center and the preservation of a story of place. “To introduce a northern city strongpoint by revitalizing historical facets of Centennial Mills while interconnectedness of the urban and natural life.”  Floating greenways lends a chance for a “water level view.”
  • Bookending Portland’s Waterfront:  Centennial Mills, Adapted by Carmen Ulrich and Emily Smietana | The bookend for the city center of Portland.  Incorporates marketplaces, underground parking, visitors center, interacts with nature and seeks to celebrate the Tanner Creek feature.  Would benefit from a grander gesture to Tanner Creek and a study of Halprin Fountain as inspiration.  The bike trails and resident profiles make this project stand out.
  • TuRBiNe by Alex Brooks and Chris Watkins | A focus on energy:  the urban energy of the city and the energy of the visitor to create an urban vitality.  This will be a place people want to go and use the street to bring the people in.  Inspired by the Vancouver landbridge and the urbanity of Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park, Pikes Place Market and connecting to the river.

Following the final review presentations, Savinar addressed the group and talked about the constraints and opportunities of the project (the submerged site area, the 20’ building line set back, the waterfront; Tanner Creek ; restoring the riparian zone, and the seawall; to name a few.  He continued by reiterating the key site features of the flour mill, grain elevators and feed mill.  Savinar noted the greenway trail is a new opportunity and there might be a way to preserve the warf buildings.  The review closed with high hopes on all sides and the momentum to continue this project adding, and adapting ideas.

I asked Professor Elzeyadi to reflect on the studio and moving forward:

The collaboration was interesting on multiple fronts:  we took a different approach to the problem by first researching the context extensively and through engaging my HiPE lab expertise. We developed some evidence based guidelines to sustainable design and the creation of a high performance buildings. This information was shared with Harsch and the design team to support their work.


We also benefited from great reviews and feedback through some of the planning and documentation that was produced by the design team.


In addition, I used a number of ways to breakdown the project so the students could bite the right size and be ready to investigate in a meaningful and manageable way. Towards that end,  we explored seven different proposals reflecting on the same issues that the design team is challenging. It corroborated what they are concerned with and engaged in and offered a different approach to the design problem in the same way.


This is the kind of triangulation and interaction that would fit the project and Harsch in the long term. It’s looking at the project from various perspectives and offering both a practical and academic perspective to developing and planning it.

The somewhat sprawling complex, even in the dusking evening skyline, is an imposing settlement of shape and context —its grand proportions and soaring features touching the sky like few other buildings on our city’s waterfront.  And with a project of somewhat unprecedented scale, and undeniable importance to our metropolis, the pedagogical opportunities afforded here are monumental. The partnerships blend new ideas and create new conversations within our capable community of those dedicated to a built environment that can unite so many elements vital to a healthy urban tapestry.

Gazing at the visibly deteriorating colossal structures from a stance anchored in the well-used park across Naito Parkway and just the other side of the glimmering tops of well-worn train tracks, lets one imagine and visualize the quiet beauty and inherent possibility of Centennial Mills.  An appreciation of the Ozymandia-esque melancholy of the project reaches far into an emotional and thoughtful consideration of Portland’s past—a monument of sorts, a reminder of inevitable decline to be gently halted, or re-invigorated mid-track by compassionate sensitivities with an keen sense of the importance of place, history, culture, and reuse.

And that, it seems, is the intention of this place’s most passionate advocate, Jordan Schnitzer, who along with the team he has so aptly brought together could very well transform what remains of this mighty place to rise again, with a bold melange of old and new.

Many thank yous to Professor Ihab Elzeyadi….

Background Context…

In 2013 the Harsch development | real estate firm received approval of a $350,000 loan from PDC to perform “predevelopment” assessment.  Under direction from Schnitzer, Harsch mindfully moved forward to examine the project’s financial possibility and to initiate preliminary design concepts.  In May of 2013, Harsch led tours of the Willamette riverfront | Pearl District Centennial Mills location and hosted an open house to introduce leading developers, preservationists, and community leaders to the dilapidated 11-building site.  It was an opportunity to glean ideas responsive to the site, both historic and public-minded, that would begin the process to transform the former flour mill into a bustling complex of office, housing, and retail development complete with a respectful inclusion of the historical character of the site.

Indeed, the goals of PDC have been to redevelop the site to be a center of “’cluster industry / traded sector employment’” encouraging industries such as “footwear, software, and clean energy that the city is courting and having success attracting.” [Portland Tribune.]  A further aspiration is to incorporate retail space, an arts-culture center, housing and parking facilities for approximately 295 vehicles. The current site, complete with the historic structures such as a four story feed mill, a five story flour mill and water tower, and grain elevators speaks of a relevant economic and social history that was a vibrant part of Portland’s past.

Working cooperatively, the PDC and Harsh have established a redevelopment team of experts well-versed in the vastly progressing realm of green design, building innovation, and sustainability.  The team, comprised of professionals from both PDC and Harsh have incorporated the expertise of Portland’s Hennebery Eddy Architects as the lead design firm. The long list that reads like pages from a who’s who of the Portland development and design universe, instantly conveys the impression that this is going to be a project with no stone, or aging timber, left unturned.

This post has been the story of how students at University of Oregon Department of Architecture were incorporated into the project. The inclusion of both graduate and undergraduate level students in UO architecture program has precipitated a design team that links UO to the following partners::

Harsch Investment Properties

·         Jordan Schnitzer

·         Gil Kelley

Studio of Tad Savinar

·         Tad Savinar

Hennebery Eddy Architects

·         David Wark

·         Gregg Sanders

·         Nick Byers

Other Project Team Members

·         Portland Development Commission

·         MS&R Architects

·         SERA Architects

·         OLIN

·         GreenWorks

·         CH2M Hill

·         KPFF Consulting Engineers

·         R&H Construction


A piece by Randy Gragg in Portland Monthly on Centennial Mills

A piece by Brian Libby in Portland Architecture on Centennial Mills

Herman D'Hooge and Smart Cities : Innovations for The Portland Plan

Smarter Everyday:  From Bits and Bytes to Realtime Knowledge

Herman D'Hooge, Image Courtesy Herman D'Hooge

We have learned to exist in a world that is far from perfect.  From diseases to global warming, from feast to famine, from carbon footprints to shameless use of fossil fuels to man’s inhumanity to man, we cope, we innovate, we create, we make and we find new ways to move forward.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but this progress inherently entails getting smarter.  Whether increasing the knowledge of those around us to better understand a need for global environmental cooperation to creating systems that will opportunistically reach and improve the lives of citizens in our most populated cities, the drive to get smarter and be able to dynamically adjust and do more with less is the new call to action.   At the forefront of the modern sustainable revolution and with the admirable goal to improve and begin the long march forward to sustain a living, healthy planet, there are individuals who dedicate their work and creativity to making our world a “smarter” place.  Herman D’Hooge is one such person.


Today, Herman D’Hooge hails as a Senior Principal Engineer and Innovation Strategist at Intel.  Yet, far from the fast-paced industry, innovation, and technology of Intel, D’Hooge grew up in the small village of Lennik, Belgium-–a place, he notes is known for a charmingly non-technological connection to draft horses.  The bucolic landscape of Lennik might have launched an early appreciation for the nature of a village or the possibility of a city within the peacefulness of an environment, but whatever the impetus, Herman D’Hooge’s path led him to an academic background steeped in technology innovation, the accelerated world of information systems, and the concept of smart cities.  With graduate degrees in electrical engineering and computer science (University of Ghent, Belgium), D’Hooge arrived stateside at Intel in 1979 as part of an exchange program between Intel and ITT Bell Telephone from Antwerp.  In his exchange assignment he worked on the development of the operating system of Intel’s newest microprocessor. The knowledge gained from this project would be invaluable in designing ITT’s first generation of computer-controlled telephone switching systems after his return.  As D’Hooge became increasingly immersed in the Intel project he also became increasingly fascinated with leading-edge microcomputer development.  He never returned to his job at ITT Bell Telephone. In 1981 he joined Intel as a full-time employee and by doing so started a long journey in technology innovation.

Herman D'Hooge instructs his students in the Smarter Cities UO AAA interdisciplinary workshop in Portland.

For the first few decades, much of this innovation is what we, the public, experienced as a continuous stream of improvements to the PC, or the personal computer. By the mid 1990s, PCs morphed into indispensable office productivity tools as well common household objects.  It was also at that time that D’Hooge’s interests shifted from technology invention and development to thinking about what it is people want from future computers. During those years, finding New Uses and New Users for computing was the mantra.  Rather than building ever more powerful computers and hoping they (users) would come because they would find a good use for it, Intel wanted change in how to inform future technology roadmaps: determine first what new uses the PC should be providing by trying to peer into the minds of current and future users and have that reveal how PCs should evolve in capabilities. It was the period when Intel started experimenting with ethnographic methods to gain insights into these new users new uses.  It became clear that computing would also provide value to people when delivered in forms other than computers. With most every thing in the real world on the path to eventually becoming digital or being touched by the digital revolution, opportunities for innovation were plenty.

One such opportunity occurred in 1998 when D’Hooge co-founded a joint project with toy giant Mattel®.  Mattel was perhaps best known for Barbies and Hot Wheels. The venture opened in Portland’s Pearl district and set out to develop a line of PC-connected toys that enabled ways of playing enabling kids to discover, explore and create in ways connecting them to technology. The venture ran for about three years and created and marketed toys such as Intel Play QX3 computer microscope among several others.  When the internet bubble was about to burst in 2001, the toy venture was closed and the business assets sold to a small toy company in Atlanta (which to this date still sells computer microscopes). D’Hooge and most of his teammates flowed back into mainstream Intel.

Returning into the fold, the experience gained by this venture in consumer products proved tremendous. D’Hooge comments that the insights gained via the processes for researching, creating, developing and marketing consumer products taught much about how to do it and how to connect all the dots from ethnographic research all the way to computer chip technology definition. He established a user centered design team focused on reimagining the PC by applying these newly learned practices. He grew a mixed discipline team of ethnographers, industrial designers, interaction designers, human factors experts, mechanical/ electrical/ software engineers, and individuals focused on business and marketing. In the years that followed, this team designed and engineered a series of purpose-built personal computer experiences ranging from pioneering all-in-one desktop PCs, PCs for consumers in China, PCs for internet cafes in China, to kiosk PCs for rural India, as well several first-of-kind computer user experience prototypes. Many of these PC designs were picked up and productized by PC manufacturers. Several of the practices by which these computers were conceived and developed slowly started to find their way into Intel’s standard set of product planning and development business processes.

In 2010, D’Hooge joined Intel’s Eco-Technology Program Office where he and the team explored the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for improving environmental sustainability. The approach was based on the simple idea that the adoption and use of ICTs in industries such as buildings, construction, transportation, agriculture, energy, and water would enable those industries to gain better insights into what goes in their systems which would, in turn, lead to better decisions and ultimately a smarter use of resources such as energy and materials, a reduction in cost, and a smaller environmental footprint. One environment where many of these systems all come together and interact which each other creating additional opportunities for innovation is within a city. This initially sparked D’Hooge’s interest in looking at the city as the unit of analysis.


Herman D'Hooge and his Smarter Portland Plan students meet with City of Portland Office of the Mayor Policy Advisor, Josh Alpert.

Curiously enough, this all ties into the University of Oregon and the School of Architecture and Allied Arts —a place that is very fortunate to have Herman D’Hooge on the school’s board of visitors and as an active and encouraging supporter of the UO AAA academic environment. Every seven years Intel offers its employees an eight-week sabbatical. It’s an ideal opportunity to renew oneself and return fully reenergized.  Getting ready to start his fourth sabbatical in 2012 D’Hooge asked to spend his sabbatical teaching at UO thereby exploring his interest in integrating technologies, sustainability, product design.  He hoped to also delve deeper into the smart cities concept.  It turns out that a teaching sabbatical can be extended up to six months which is what ended up happening and timing was perfect for an UO AAA Fall Term course.  He saw an opportunity to seamlessly blend these interests with the vibrant interdisciplinary environment of the UO Portland location, where students study in the fields of architecture, product design and digital arts.


D’Hooge, himself forever the open-source diplomat, realized the possibility of teaming up with University of Oregon students who could bring fresh pairs of eyes with insights and connectivity to a city they lived in and cared about.  Fall term 2012 saw the first offering of D’Hooge’s Smart Cities workshop at the UO White Stag location in Portland’s Old Town Chinatown, 408|508 Smarter Cities Allied Arts Interdisciplinary course.

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales greets Herman D'Hooge and the students of The Smarter Portland Plan.

The goal of the course “was to explore the space of possibility created by the adoption of information and communications technology (ICT) in the urban environment.”  D’Hooge further explains, “The focus was not on how the technology works, but on how its adoption can contribute to making cities more efficient, more environmentally sustainable, more equitable, more livable, more prosperous.”   The workshop had 29 University of  Oregon in Portland students.  Guest lecturers for the workshop included Joe Zehnder, chief of planning with the Portland Bureau of  Planning and Sustainability who introduced the students to “The Portland Plan.”  Students set about to imagine recommendations they would make for where, how, and why ICT’s could make a positive impact.  A report was prepared that details the strongest student suggestions (view the PDF here).

[About The Portland Plan:  The Portland Plan presents a strategic roadmap to help Portland thrive into the future. The result of more than two years of research, dozens of workshops and fairs, hundreds of meetings with community groups, and 20,000 comments from residents, businesses and nonprofits, the plan’s three integrated strategies and framework for advancing equity were designed to help realize the vision of a prosperous, educated, healthy and equitable Portland.]

Not only would the students be able to work on their own environment and consider the potential of change and improvement to Portland but they would be able to connect in meaningful ways to Intel future employment opportunities.  Intel and D’Hooge envision the university environment as one of forward-thinking, research oriented, open and receptive to new ideas and the intersection of those new ideas with creative people.  D’Hooge was excited to explore smarter city technologies and to experience how spaces and objects could be infused with technology.  The Smarter Cities workshop with the students from architecture, digital arts and product design advocated an interaction between people and spaces where thinking about technology became more of a “What  can I do, as an individual, to enhance my environment?  What can I do to make life better and make the planet more sustainable?” attitude.  D’Hooge and his students set out to tackle this question from a uniquely Portland vantage.

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales talks to students about The Smarter Portland Plan

The original Portland Plan is to be implemented by 2035.  D’Hooge and his students saw an opportunity to enhance The Portland Plan by investigating how information technologies can help it be, as D’Hooge simply states, “smarter.”  So, what does that mean?

“Smart” explains D’Hooge starts by obtaining better insights into what really happens in a city at the moment it happens enabling humans to make better informed decision about their city. Sensors embedded in a city’s systems (traffic lights, parking spaces, sidewalks, buildings, water pipes, etc.) in real-time communicate their information to a central location. There the information is analyzed, possibly combined with other information, and interpreted. This information forms the basis for decisions.  For example: sensors in the water mains under a busy intersection can detect if a water main breaks soon after it happens. The information about the break can be used to dynamically chance traffic lights and update GPS information accessed by vehicles to route traffic away from the intersection while dispatching emergency vehicles to the area.  This also illustrates how water and traffic systems can meaningfully interact in a city environment, a system of systems.

Knowing the infusion of student’s ideas into The Portland Plan could propel an evolutionary-like energy, the students enthusiastically welcomed this opportunity.  Their recommendations reflect an impulse of vitality and change; their innovation projects a sense of buoyant optimism—youthful, full of promise, hope and vigorous with possibility.  The list of “smart” recommendations arrived at by the UO students include such improvements as good student incentives supported by ICT devices, student tutor chats online via Skype chats, matching of students with mentors in the community via databases, new car sharing schemes, safe routes shown on maps controlled by citizens and their smartphones, smart city lighting that incorporates emergency signals and neighborhood celebratory lighting, bike-based sensors to plan cycling corridors and people aware intersections, parking improvements enhanced by the use of pre-assigned parking places, river water quality found on a phone app, and public viewing of cultural performances. “The ‘Smarter’ Portland Plan” is divided into three sections, Thriving, Educated Youth; Healthy, Connected City; Economic Prosperity and Affordability.


Students and Herman D'Hooge present "The 'Smarter' Portland Plan" to City Council of Portland, Oregon.

On June 26, the Portland City Council invited Herman D’Hooge and his students to present “The ‘Smarter’ Portland Plan” to the City Council.  In attendance to represent the UO was Nancy Cheng, Department of Architecture director of  Portland architecture program; Candace Horter, VP UO Advancement, Portland;  Kiersten Muenchinger, director of the Product Design program; prominent advocates from the neighborhood included Anne Naito-Campbell, Randy Gragg and Paddy Tillett, among others.  The council voted to adopt the plan and Mayor Charlie Hales commented that the report constituted a “rich menu of interesting ideas.”  In the weeks following the June presentation, the UO in Portland School of Architecture and Allied Arts was contacted by the City Club of Portland’s executive director, Sam Adams and asked to present the Plan to the City Club at a future date.


D’Hooge’s “”Smarter’ Portland Plan” might hold the key to integrating more and “smarter” information technologies as 2035 approaches.  The citizens of Portland might experience a community of well-integrated sensors, antennas, smartphones, and command and control centers—all with the intention of making this place better.  The enticing possibility of such day-to-day frustrations such as  parking downtown becoming easier by a simple sensor that would send data to a command center and then update an application on one’s smartphone directing and saving a specific parking place might be a more realistic possibility than not in the coming years.  The idea that real-time information can be used to improve an experience of an urban environment with everything from road closures, to viewing concerts, to bus delays, to whether or not today is a good day to swim in the river, is nothing short of captivating.

Herman D'Hooge and students present "The 'Smarter' Portland Plan" to the Portland City Council.

The work on The ‘Smarter’ Portland Plan also laid a foundation for a continued collaboration between the city and Portland-based UO students.  The idea of embedding UO students as “community creatives” in city project teams can be a win-win.  The city taps the creativity and passion of the students and brings in their knowledge and point of view.  Students get to work of projects that are likely to become real and get exposure to the real world.

To envision a city where, we, the people, are relevant, listened to, informed and would have the possibility of a democratic exchange of ideas and information seems a utopia we all should advocate for.  And living in an urban fabric where the city can find ways to share information with no commercial purpose, dare we dream so big?  One might say, the time has come. . . .



University of Oregon students in Herman D’Hooge’s Smarter Cities workshop who prepared “The ‘Smarter’ Portland Plan are,


Teressa Chizeck

Natalie Cregar

Elizabeth Hampton

Natasha Michalowsky

Eli Rosenwasser


“The ‘Smarter’ Portland Plan” is available here. [link to pdf]


Thank you to Herman D’Hooge for his comments and work on this project.


Office of the Mayor | Acceptance of the Report “The ‘Smarter’ Portland Plan”

Moore’s Law | Intel

The Portland Plan

UO graduates help shape and lead 40 years of Oregon land use system

This month marks the 40th anniversary of the passage of Oregon’s land use law, SB 100. This law created the most innovative and progressive land use program in the country, and no state has a law that rivals its success. Every one of its 36 counties and nearly all incorporated cities have state-acknowledged plans to protect farm and forest lands with urban growth boundaries, which limit the potential for urban and rural sprawl, and preserve natural resources and greenspaces. One needs to just drive along I-5 through the Willamette Valley to understand this fact: Oregon has chosen to grow differently and it’s working.

Governor Tom McCall signed SB 100 into law on May 29, 1973. Over the last 40 years, the law’s success has required an army of vigilant advocates to ensure its success and stave off full frontal assaults from upset citizens, oppositional legislators, and ballot referendums. The University of Oregon has been a nurturing ground for many of the bill’s most ardent supporters, whether Oregonians or those who moved to the state to learn how and why Oregon is a leader in sustainable development, environmental preservation, agricultural success, and urban livability.

The Three Sisters in the Cascade Mountains from Sisters. Photo courtesy of Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives.

This is a story of three UO graduates who have, with countless others, lifted up and ensured SB 100’s success, which many can agree is a true gift to the State of Oregon.

PPPM Associate Professor Emerita Maradel Gale, JD ’74, taught and nurtured hundreds of students who went on to directly impact the law’s development. However, before she joined the ranks of the PPPM faculty, Gale was at the forefront of the Oregon land use program’s development. In 1968, she became the first president and volunteer lobbyist at the State Capitol for the Oregon Environmental Council. In this role Gale successfully lobbied on legislation for increased funding for bike and pedestrian paths, prohibition of billboards along highways, and helped create the Nuclear Thermal Energy Council, which disallowed utility companies from siting new nuclear power plants without public input and vetting.

Gale’s biggest land use success was the creation and appointment to the Oregon Coastal Conservation and Development Commission, which established a planning process for Oregon’s coastal region. ”Prior to the creation of the Commission, city councilors, county commissioners, and port directors had formed a coastal organization with the goal of maximizing development throughout Oregon’s coasts,” says Gale. “They were fighting to get ports in every one of Oregon’s estuaries.”

“I was proudest to get estuary designations that allowed some degree of development in areas like Coos Bay and Astoria, but also preservation for others with greater natural resource benefit. This was not a popular concept on the coast at that time, but thankfully it happened.”

In 1971, Gale enrolled in the UO law school. In 1974, during the week of her last law school final, Gale gave a lecture to the UO Masters Program for Urban and Regional Planning (a pre-cursor to the current Community and Regional Planning program). Her lecture on “Politics and Planning” resulted in a new career and hire for the department, where Gale taught Legal Issues in Planning and the Environment and numerous other courses.

PPPM Associate Professor Emerita Maradel Gale

“The department was the first school throughout the country to bring a lawyer on its faculty,” says Gale.  “Most of the planning programs around the country didn’t teach a legal planning course, and subsequently we saw many more departments developing legal planning courses and bringing many more people with legal experience on their faculty.”

Students such as Ron Eber, MURP ’75, were behind the creation of the Legal Issues class. “My peers and I pushed really hard to develop the Legal Issues class, because we felt that this was something that planners needed to know, and was missing from the department,” says Eber. He was glad this work paid off, because Gale’s class prepared his peers and him to become engaged in the implementation of SB 100 and fight for its success.

“Maradel’s class was by far the hardest class that I took. She taught it like a law school course and it was a real challenge to us. Her course probably did more to prepare me for a career than anything else. I used the practical skills from that class almost everyday for over 30 years, whether it was researching the background of  a statute, the case law or understanding statutory construction. Planners must know how to implement broad policy and legislative pronouncements to develop plans and regulations that are effective to achieve the desired outcomes.  Understanding our legal and administrative system is where the rubber hits the road. We learned these important skills in Maradel’s class.”

Ron Eber (MURP '75), Oregon’s preeminent farm and forestlands specialist

Eber became Gale’s first graduate teaching fellow in her Legal Issues course. He joined the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development as a summer intern in 1975 and worked for it full time from 1976 until his retirement in 2008. During that time he was involved in all phases of implementing SB 100, especially the state’s longstanding policy to protect farmland including the development of legislation and administrative rules, the review of local plans and zoning codes, local land use decisions and legal appeals.  Upon retirement and still to this day, Eber is looked to as Oregon’s preeminent farm and forestlands specialist and recently published a history on Oregon’s efforts to protect farm land from 1961 to 2009.

Dick Benner’s career, JD ’75, intertwined with both Gale and Eber at different times. Benner enrolled in the UO law school in 1972, and took up land use causes early on through a position for OSPIRG assigned to monitor the Oregon Coastal Conservation and Development Commission, on which Gale was a commissioner. In 1975, Benner became one of two initial staff attorneys with 1000 Friends of Oregon along with UO law school classmate Bob Stacey. Stacey later became planning director for the City of Portland, the executive director of 1000 Friends, and is currently a Metro Councilor.

Dick Benner (JD '75), staff attorney for 1000 Friends of Oregon, first executive director of the Columbia River Gorge Commission, director of Oregon Department Land Conservation and Development, and senior assistant counsel for Metro in Portland.

Benner spent 12 years with 1000 Friends as the lead attorney on coastal and rural land use cases, where he ensured Oregon’s cities, counties, and the state were upholding SB 100’s goals. In 1987, he accepted the position as executive director of the newly formed Columbia River Gorge Commission, which oversees the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. He directed development of the commission’s staff and creation of the Scenic Area’s management plan. Upon completion of the plan, he accepted the position as director of the Department of Land  Conservation and Development in 1991.

“That was a very difficult job. My moving into this position coincided with a fairly dramatic turn to the political right in the Oregon Legislature, who were not fans of the program,” says Benner. ”Much of our work was defensive, trying to save the land use program and trying to keep a budget for the agency, which was always under attack.”

Even so, Benner and his colleagues, including Eber, were successful at implementing two changes to the program that have real and positive impacts. First, he oversaw the implementation of Oregon’s Transportation Planning Rule, which requires integration of the state’s land use and transportation systems to emphasize the reduction in reliance of automobiles.

“As this rule started to be defined and enacted, it became clear what a big deal it was because it was the first real recognition of the interconnectedness of land use and transportation,” says Benner. “However, it was a titanic struggle within state government to truly enact this rule. Thank goodness for Governor John Kitzhaber, because the Oregon Department of Transportation resisted this all the way. They wanted nothing to do with the land use program, because they were dominated by highway engineers who had no notion of the linkage between the land use patterns and the transportation patterns. Ultimately, the Governor told the Oregon Transportation Commission and the Department that they had to climb on board, and Oregon is starting to see the benefits of this rule today.”

The second success was his work with Eber and others to redefine Oregon’s farmland protection statutes. In 1993, Eber was on assignment as a special assistant to Governor Barbara Roberts’ Natural Resources Policy Advisor Ann Squier. At the outset of this process, both Benner and Eber were fearful the whole farmland protection section of the law was at risk because the House had leverage to block the agency’s budget in the legislature and hold it hostage in order to force the Senate to agree to changes to weaken the laws designed to protect farm and forest lands from conflicting development. These two worked tirelessly over the summer of 1993’s extended legislative session to gain compromises from all parties to pass HB 3661, which amended policy on standards for dwellings in farm zones, placed fixed minimum lot sizes for farmlands in statute, and created the definition of “high-value farmland,” and “finally provided some peace in the countryside, so to speak,” says Benner.

Ron Eber and Hector Macpherson (the "father of SB 100") at the signing of HB 3661 in 1993 at the Sokol-Blosser Winery.

Benner left DLCD in 2001 and became the senior assistant counsel for Metro in Portland, where he witnessed the benefits of Oregon’s land use law up close. Benner says, “Portlanders drive about 20 percent less than average cities of its size. We attribute this not to reduced number of trips, but to shorter trips. The trips are shorter, because we are growing with a more compact urban form. Portlanders do a higher percentage of commute trips made by bike than any city in the United States. They ride transit more. The per capita carbon emissions are below 1990 levels.”

“After 40 years, we are getting to where we set out to go,” Benner concludes.

A barn at the Melrose Vineyards. Photo courtesy of Gary Halvorson, OregonStateArchives.

Gale, Eber and Benner have deep appreciation for Oregon’s land use law as it has taken shape and evolved. “I see myself not just as an advocate of the land use law, or a practitioner of it, but also as a student of it,” says Benner. Eber believes that the law offered him “a great appreciation of the democratic process as well as the responsibility we all have as citizens to not only those of us here today, but to future generations as well.”

Oregon’s land use law is truly a gift to the state of Oregon, and it hasn’t been just the work of Gale, Eber and Benner’s passionate advocacy, but thousands of Oregonians who have ensured its success. However, understanding the battles that these three UO graduates faced in educating, communicating, and fighting for Oregon’s land use program over the last 40 years will be important to the success of its next 40 years. Two things are certain: first, change is inevitable for the law, but the foundations of having urban growth boundaries, farm and forestland protection, housing, transportation, and extensive opportunities for citizens to be involved in an open and transparent public process will live on; second, the UO stands ready to continue its development of professionals ready for this task. It’s up to today’s students to pick up the fight to see Oregon’s land use program through for another 40 successful years.

Story by Joe McAndrew; A&AA Writer/Videographer Graduate Teaching Fellow