White Stag Block

Portland, Oregon

Award Type: Advisors' Award

In one of America’s greenest cities, three long vacant, historic commercial buildings have been brought back to life in a textbook example of sustainable development.  In Portland’s Skidmore/Old Town neighborhood, the White Stag (1907), Bickel (1883) and Skidmore (1889) buildings were little more than shells when the University of Oregon joined forces with Venerable Properties for an ambitious restoration project. The University needed 100,000 square feet of space for a new satellite campus and hoped to transform the buildings into a model of preservation, sustainability and higher education.

The $37 million project required extraordinary vision.  The three buildings, all decrepit, needed to be unified, yet retain their historic identities.  In addition, architects had to contend with leaking roofs, fire damage, missing cast-iron elements and grossly outdated systems.  Three historic facades were painstakingly restored, and three sets of floors and basements, all on different levels, were connected. Because of its emphasis on green features – including new insulation and energy-efficient HVAC systems, the reuse or recycling of discarded materials, and a rainwater harvesting system to reduce water consumption – the project received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification.  

The neighborhood once known primarily for the iconic 46-foot “Made in Oregon” sign that sits atop the White Stag Building is today teeming with new investors, employers, businesses and special events.

“The restoration of the White Stag Block is a triumph in every sense of the word,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  “Long-neglected buildings have become vibrant showplaces, and a formerly rundown neighborhood is a model of preservation, sustainability and community rebirth. What better lesson could a university teach?”