Historic home in path of higher density
By Lee Perlman/ The Portland Observer
The good news is that so many people have said they want to save this house. The bad news is that it may not do much good.
Those are the words of Caroline Dao, Boise Neighborhood Association chair, on the fate of the historic Edwin Rayworth house at 3605 N. Albina Ave.
Housing developer Andre Koshuba plans to tear down the 1890 bungalow and build two units on the site. Neighborhood activists and preservationists are scrambling to see if the old house can be saved.
One of the first to raise the wrecking ball alarm was Roy Roos, author of several history books about Albina and inner north and northeast Portland.
In a December blog and in letters to various publications, Roos gave the history of the house. The last owner was Dan Mohrman, who purchased the property in 2001. He had intended to restore it, Roos wrote, but lost it to foreclosure in 2010. Koshuba purchased the house through his Exceptional Homes company last October.
“It is clear that our old, close-in neighborhoods are under attack from wealthy developers from the suburbs,” Roos wrote. “We face architectural pillage by them because the city is promoting high density, and has a deaf ear for historic preservation.”
The Boise neighborhood took up the issue and has tried to work cooperatively with Koshuba, but according to Dao, he claims the home’s crumbling foundation is too costly to repair and he points to zoning codes that would require building a second unit on the property to meet minimum density requirements.
Dao has contrary information that the foundation is not as bad as Koshuba paints it, and that the zoning issue could be fixed by creating a small accessory dwelling unit on the property, according to City officials.
Koshuba has offered to sell the house for $1 to anyone willing to move it off the property. Terry Emmert of Emmert Construction, a professional house mover, has offered to knock $5,000 off his usual fee of $75,000 for the job. But this still requires finding a suitable vacant lot nearby and making the job pencil out. According to Dao, four people have considered doing the job, and each has given up.
Boise is now trying to get Koshuba to renovate the house where it is, and they hope to have professionals in the building trades convince the developer that this is a good bet financially. However, those efforts may not be enough to stop a mid-March deadline for the house to be gone.
Both Dao and Cathy Galbraith of the Architectural Heritage Center say this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of threats to what is left of the Albina community’s architectural history.
“A lot of older houses are vulnerable, especially given the city’s push for greater density,” Dao says.
In his blog, Roos said, “The historic buildings in our communities give us our sense of place and cultural memory. Our old neighborhoods, which help make Portland special, are in danger of becoming ‘Anywhere USA.’”