Preservation advocates trying to save the decaying, 101-year-old Gas and Coke Building are making progress.
They say the building’s owner, NW Natural, has offered it a reprieve from demolition—for a price.
“They’re asking for upwards of $2 million,” says Kathy Evans, who’s led the charge to save the Gas and Coke Building. “We have conditionally accepted.”
Advocates have for months been urging NW Natural to spare the 1913 office building, which sits on a polluted industrial site along U.S. Highway 30 just south of the St. Johns Bridge.
But don't get any ideas about hosting a Halloween party in the gothic structure (or turning it into a McMenamins). Evans says the agreement would leave the building standing as a ruin, cleaned up but with no visitors allowed inside.
The utility's offer to preserve the building was first reported this morning in WW's Murmurs.
Evans tells WW that if a second meeting with NW Natural goes well, advocates will begin asking the public for funds this summer. "They're wanting us to come up with the full amount," she says.
NW Natural spokeswoman Melissa Moore confirms negotiations are ongoing.
“If it were left up to us, we would, for many reasons, be taking it down,” Moore says of the building. “But we are giving this group an opportunity to save it if they can raise the funds.”
Moore says the $2 million figure was reached by independent contractors, who looked at the cost of cleaning out hazardous materials from the building (including asbestos and bird excrement) and stabilizing it.
"Like part of the roof is missing, for example, and the floors are unstable," Moore says. "We want them to be aiming for something realistic."
UPDATE, 4 pm Wednesday: Not everybody is satisfied by the offer. Brian Libby, the architecture critic who first publicized the building's likely demolition, says on Twitter he doesn't see why NW Natural would ask for $2 million to fix a ruin.
"It's unseemly for a corporation to ask grassroots activists for an amount it can afford and they can't," Libby writes. "I'm suspicious."