New Chinatown / Japantown Historic District Design Guidelines

Portland, Oregon
Completed 2015-2016

The New Chinatown/Japantown Historic District Design Guidelines are adopted land use approval criteria that protect the architectural integrity and cultural significance of Portland’s New Chinatown/Japantown Historic District. Guidelines are anticipated to be adopted early in 2017. The document consists of a full context and historic background for the neighborhood which significantly expands the existing NRHP Historic District nomination. The document also includes land use approval criteria applicable to new development and alterations in the district. The guidelines allow change to take place which will respect the unique character of the district, the only historic district in Portland which is primarily significant for its cultural history.

PMA was part of the selected consultant team that coordinated with PDC and BPS staff to create the proposed design guidelines. The guidelines are written to be flexible, yet to guide future projects to take cues from the architectural and cultural history in the historic district. There were a number of directly relevant tasks involved in the development of the guidelines and background. Developing an understanding of the difficulties experienced by immigrant cultures in Oregon was critical. Interviews with community members were also an important tool for learning about cultural attitudes, past events, and the aspirations of the ethnic and cultural groups with ties in the District. Finally, the guidelines advocate for preservation of the presence of a thriving community, which is different from preservation of the original architecture of the District. They are not applicable to types of uses within a building or to interiors. The resulting document will include a background and context discussion preceding the actual design guidelines, each of which will be illustrated with photographs (both modern and historic) and options for how each guideline can be met.