When Melvin Mark built the Central Plaza Garage in 1965, it was the first public parking garage in downtown Portland. The half-block structure at the corner of SW 4th Ave and SW Alder St provides parking for both locals and visitors and is home to a variety of retail shops in the area’s busy shopping district. While two additional floors of parking were added to the building in 1988, the overall design has remained largely unchanged.

Recently, Melvin Mark worked with Hennebery Eddy Architects to create a design proposal that updates and refreshes several aspects of the building’s ground floor. The plan is to create a more modern-looking aluminum storefront that includes new paint, new tenant signage, and new polycarbonate canopies with steel supports that will increase pedestrian weather protection. In addition, the corner bays will see an increase in header height and the storefronts will be recessed to provide a continuous soffit along the entrances.

The goal of the project is to revitalize and elevate the existing building while increasing the activity of the building’s street corner and enhancing the overall pedestrian experience. Many areas of downtown Portland have been affected by the protests of 2020 and while Melvin Mark began plans for their Central Plaza update several years ago, the team believes now is the perfect time to bring a new energy to the area. The City of Portland Design Commission voted unanimously to approve the project, praising the design efforts of both Melvin Mark and Hennebery Eddy.

“This is an excellent example of reusing, rehabilitating, and restoring a building, [as well as] contributing to a vibrant streetscape and enhancing the pedestrian system,” said Commissioner Zari Santner. “The guidelines are met, in my view, with the highest quality and I’m very appreciative of that.”

“Downtown really needs a lift at this point,” said Commissioner Don Vallaster. “To see someone actually improving a building is going to be great for the downtown community. I look forward to seeing this and hope it goes well.”

Construction on the Central Plaza project will begin as soon as possible, with hopes of a start date in Q1 of 2021.