By Krista Walton | From Preservation | January/February 2008
It almost goes without saying that Portlanders pride themselves on being ahead of the sustainable living curve. After all, even their parking meters are solar powered. So when the First Regiment Armory Annex, a Richardsonian Romanesque landmark in the city's fashionable Pearl District, needed a major rehab, the renovation, not surprisingly, went green. The result was the Gerding Theater—the first National Register-listed building in the country to receive a LEED platinum certification.
During the late 19th century, Oregon's National Guard trained and socialized at the Armory Annex, and over time, the space was used for everything from dog shows to beer storage. Developers Gerding/Edlen purchased the building in 1999 and led a $36 million project that turned it into one of Portland's most popular cultural venues, with both a 600-seat main theater and a 200-seat studio theater.
During the renovation, the exposed brick walls and massive overhead trusses were restored, and the building underwent a seismic upgrade. The developers also worked closely with local preservation groups to include interpretive material about the Gerding's history in the lobby. Contributing to the platinum rating are skylights for natural lighting, a displacement ventilation system to improve air flow, and a system that reuses rainwater collected from the roof. Ultimately, 75 percent of the original structure was reused, and 95 percent of construction and demolition debris recycled.
"A lot of innovation had to go into that building to make it work," says John Tess, president of the Portland-based Heritage Consulting Group. "Now, you have this wonderful building located right in the middle of one of the city's busiest neighborhoods. To see so many people come to the Gerding is a pretty neat deal."
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