Rockin' and Rollin' in Southeast Portland?

At the risk of leading readers to fear that Culture Shock is becoming a site for amateur architectural criticism (see the post below this one), I do want to point out a story in this morning’s Oregonian: Randy Rapaport and Beam Development are planning a new performance venue in Southeast Portland – a 2,000 seat hall for rock music at SE Yamhill and Water in the heart of the inner-Southeast industrial neighborhood.

If built, the project, currently dubbed "Venue 300b," will provide a performance hall with a capacity that will compete with the Keller (@ 3,000 seats), the Schnitzer (@ 2,800), the Crystal (@ 1,500) and the Roseland (@ 1,400).

The project architect,Works Partnership Architecture, describes it in the language of their people this way:

The public zone of the venue would constitute an ascending series of gathering spaces along a continuous ramp system. A skin is stretched tight around a simple concrete shell. Where people move up through the venue, the path widens and narrows - the larger volumes bulging, like elbows brushing against the boundaries of the space. These larger gathering spaces become windows out and the venue's opportunities to interact with the city.

The big windows looking across the river will certainly create a stunning view of downtown Portland, particularly at night. The vista from the eastside (from OMSI for example) has always made me pause and think, "Damn, this is a good looking city I'm living in."

The idea of leaving a rock concert with 2,000 other people pushing through a path that “widens and narrows … like elbows brushing against the boundaries of the space” sounds a little creepy, but I’m probably reflecting on a recent experience elbowing out of the Crystal through pools of beer and discarded plastic cups, to exit through a vomitorium onto Burnside. I presume the new venue will be selling beer.

The project was recently recognized by AIA Portland with a 2008 Unbuilt Merit Award, so congratulations on that. I'm withholding judgment because I only know what I've just written here, which ain't much. The building does look a bit like a television set from the days before LCD flat screens, or some kind of device at the optometrist's office. I will certainly be following to see how the project develops. As is my wont, I have more questions at this stage than criticism or opinions: Will there be parking, or are we all going to bike there? How does it fit with the rest of the neighborhood? What else will be happening in the neighborhood after the show lets out at 1:00 a.m.? What happens if we ever move I-5 or put it underground along the eastside waterfront?

If any skilled critics of either architecture, rock music venues, or neighborhood planning want to weigh in or point me to other posts, please do so.


culturejock said...

I find this fascinating. BEAM is doing some interesting work right now, and they're the same folks behind MILEPOST 5, a live/work artists community in Montavilla that has had its own ups and downs. (Been wanting to blog on that for a while now... one of these days I'll get around to it!)

But to bring the discussion solidly into Culture Shock territory, several arts organizations have been expressing the need for a 1,500 to 2,000 seat venue for years, and while this doesn't eliminate the need for the opera, the ballet, and the symphony to have the kind of facility that suits those fine art forms (see Bob Hicks' very fine analysis at, I wonder what opportunities exist to incorporate features into THIS that would make the venue conducive for some performing arts (a contemporary dance piece comes to mind) as well as live music.

Or imagine catching the Decemberists one night, and taking your kids to Charlotte's Web the next afternoon. Ha! Don't mind that stale beer smell, kids.

But seriously... any synergies to be realized?

MightyToyCannon said...

Please do post about Milepost 5. I'm interested in how that's going. I presume sales are tough in our current economic environment, and I understand the definition of "artist" has been loosened. Also, its website refers to people as "creatives" too much.

As to whether the planned SE PDX rock venue could also serve the "fine arts," I'm guessing that would depend on economics of rental rates and schedule availability. I believe the PCPA likes to book rock concerts into the Schnitz because they can charge a higher rent than the standard non-profit, resident company rate. Plus, rock acts are able to load-in, sound-check, perform, party with groupies, load-out and move on down the road in less than 24 hours. I doubt a rock hall's operators would be willing to commit a block of time for an extended theater run that would also include teching. Perhaps White Bird would be interested in presenting dance there -- they're used to short runs at the Schnitz, though the companies will also need tech time in advance. I can't remember if the 2,000 person capacity of the new venue's design assumes seated or standing audiences.

Still, I like the idea of having a facility of that size that is used by a variety of audiences experiencing the arts in diverse ways.

culturejock said...

PSU’s Architecture Department is hosting a “Praxis” lecture featuring Venue 300b next Wednesday, October 29th, 5:30 in the recently refurbished Shattuck Hall Annex at PSU. I'm going to try and attend!

Anonymous said...

As an owner of design firm within a few blocks of this venue, I think it would be an exciting addition to the neighborhood, and an appropriate one. Housing has been legislated out of this district entirely, so performance venues, especially rock venues, work down here. No one will be bothered by the noise or the late night crowds.

The parking is a big question, though. This is still a "working" neighborhood, with plenty of loading and unloading going on in the wee hours. Maybe the venue could work out in an off-hours arrangement with OMSI, who has acres of parking in the district.

MightyToyCannon said...

A rock venue in that neighborhood would certainly add some interesting late-night verve. We went to AudioCinema (226 SE Madison) a few years ago when PICA held its TBA afterhours party there. After parking, we walked the shadowy blocks to the venue, across the railroad tracks, past open loading bay doors spilling light and revealing the late-night activity that makes it a true working neighborhood. A fog machine spewing knee-high plumes of smoke was all that was needed to turn it into a film noir film set.

Wouldn't it be cool if there was a music venue on the industrial waterfront with a retractable roof for summer concerts? I imagine that retractable roofs don't come cheap. I think an outdoor venue for a few thousand people close to downtown would be a hit (except for the rainy season). Ten years ago, somebody set up a temporary venue in NW Portland on Front-- the River Queen Showplace. Nothing fancy about it, but it was outdoors and not a bad place for a concert on a nice summer night(we saw John Fogerty there).

headsUp said...

Randy Rapaport has left a long trail of bad debt, at the Clinton. To bad he is headlining this show.