Read the original story in The Oregonian here.
Portland has its own Broadway district, with theaters, restaurants and flashing marquees. Now Portland State University wants to join the fun.
By the end of the year, the Broadway side of Lincoln Hall will glow with actors and dancers moving inside a new, three-story glass tower carved into the 101-year-old building.
The $3.6 million tower, designed by Portland's Boora Architects, extends the downtown cultural district several blocks up Broadway from the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall and the Antoinette Hatfield Hall.
At the same time, the university's School of Fine & Performing Arts plans to announce a status upgrade to its academic programs by becoming a College of the Arts.
The new tower will contain a dance studio, an acting studio, art gallery space and a black box theater in the basement. The money will also pay for a new green room and renovated dressing rooms for the 476-seat Lincoln Performance Hall.
Arlene Schnitzer, one of Portland's best-known philanthropists, gave the lead gift of $2.3 million for the glass tower.
"It's going to be fabulous," Schnitzer says. "I can see myself driving up Broadway, seeing movement and activity, human interaction. I'm excited about it. I think it will really draw people to the institution."
Schnitzer knows the building well. She and her late husband, Harold, attended school there when it was Lincoln High School. The Schnitzers previously gave PSU money to hire its first tenured faculty member in Judaic Studies and to create the James DePreist Professorship.
In 2004, the Schnitzers received honorary degrees from PSU. The university will announce Arlene Schnitzer's gift Wednesday.
Still needed for the project: $1 million. The university will loan the $1 million to the School of Fine & Performing Arts until private money is raised, says Barbara Sestak, the school's dean.
For 100 years, Lincoln Hall's grand entrance opened to the South Park Blocks, as did many other campus buildings. The new tower essentially turns the back of the building into the front, along one of the city's important streets, says Michael Tingley, the project's principal architect.
"That is inherently challenging because we are working against the original logic of the building," Tingley says. "We are lucky that the portion of the building we are impacting with the glass tower is the one major section of the building exterior that is not part of the original 1912 design.
"The big blank wall in the middle of the Broadway elevation was created when the building was renovated in the 1970s and the old auditorium in the middle of the building was enlarged and turned into a modern theater with a major stage. The blank wall is a new wall built in the 1970s that is the back wall of the stage. The glass tower will have a very minimal impact on any of the original historic details of the building."
Finishing a renovation
The tower will complete Boora's $33 million renovation of Lincoln Hall, which transformed the aging building from top to bottom, opening original spaces, exposing more light and earning LEED Platinum certification for green building design.
Last year, workers broke through the back wall of the building to create a new entrance on Broadway. The glass tower, which echoes the lighted glass stairways of Hatfield Hall down the street, will rise next to the new entrance. Construction begins this summer and should be completed in December, Sestak says.
"We wanted to show what's inside this building," she says. "It's a new gateway to the university. It makes a statement. You can see the arts live and what we're doing here."
The new entrance recognizes the university's expansion eastward across Broadway and beyond, including an urban plaza built in 2000 that has become the new center of activity at PSU. The plaza is the busiest transit hub in Portland.
"We don't have just one front door anymore," Sestak says of Lincoln Hall.
After the building closed as Lincoln High School in 1952, the university took it over as its first building on the Park Blocks. Its auditorium has become one of the city's most popular venues for music, dance and film events, from international concert pianists to taiko and contemporary dance.
Like the Hatfield and Schnitzer halls down the street, patrons will not be able to park in front of Lincoln Hall but can drop off passengers at the curb.
New name, status
Speaking of upgrades, Sestak is eager to announce Wednesday that the School of Fine & Performing Arts will now call itself the College of the Arts. The name change, which PSU approved in November, boosts the prestige of the arts school's four programs: architecture, art, music and theater/film. With 125 faculty members, and 2,200 students taking classes, arts programs at PSU have seen a 40 percent increase in majors in the past four years.
Still to come is the university's approval to bring back its dance major. PSU cut the dance program in the 1990s, but with a new dance studio in the tower the school hopes to revive it. Approval usually takes about a year, Sestak says.
Becoming a College of the Arts means the university can offer more intense and in-depth courses leading to professional degrees, Sestak says. That, in turn, raises the college's status within the university.
"It brings better visibility; we're more attractive to students, to faculty," she says. "We can be a stronger player within PSU."