An Oregon icon is set for a major tune-up as Metro renovates the famous "Portland" sign on Broadway Avenue at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.
Work on the sign, which is 33 years old, is scheduled to begin on May 2, subject to permitting and weather. When the "Portland" sign goes back up, it will have a fresh coat of paint and brighter neon letters – but will otherwise look just like the sign hanging today.
The sign will come down in segments and the project will take about two months while crews from Bellevue, Washington-based Tube Art Group perform the renovation work. The $500,000 project is being funded by Portland'5 Centers for the Arts' capital fund.
Several sign components need maintenance and repair, including some of the sheet metal on the sign that is corroding. The sign’s neon letters also need to be replaced. The paint on the south-facing side of the sign has faded over the years. When the renovation work is finished, the sign will have new aluminum components and a new coating that will be more corrosion and UV resistant which will keep the sign safe from Portland weather for years to come.
"The Portland sign has been a landmark for three decades, and is a fitting tribute to the original sign that hung on the Paramount Theatre before 1984," said Robyn Williams, executive director of Portland'5 Centers for the Arts. "We look forward to unveiling the renovated sign this summer."
The 65-foot-high "Portland" sign first went up in 1928, when it was opened as the Portland Publix Theatre. In 1930, the sign was changed to say "Paramount," as the theater was contracted with that studio to show Paramount films. When the theater opened as the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in 1984, the sign was changed back to say "Portland."
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall is a part of Portland'5 Centers for the Arts, a service of Metro. In addition to the concert hall, Portland'5 Centers for the Arts also operates the Keller Auditorium and the Newmark, Winningstad and Brunish theatres at Antoinette Hatfield Hall.
Greater Portland's issues and opportunities cross city and county lines. That's why Metro serves 1.5 million people in the region, with oversight by the directly-elected Metro Council. Metro runs the Oregon Zoo, Oregon Convention Center, Portland Expo Center and Portland’5 Centers for the Arts. Metro also manages 17,000 acres of natural areas, oversees the region's solid waste and recycling system, protects farms and forests and supports 24 cities and 3 counties in planning for our future.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Why are you renovating the sign?
The sign that hangs on the building today was installed in 1984 when the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall opened. Since then, weathering has taken its toll on the sign. The renovation work will bring the original sign back to life by replacing the corroded outer steel shell with a new, lightweight aluminum shell, replacing all of the wiring and neon tubing, and giving it a fresh coat of paint.
Isn’t the sign a historic landmark?
The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall’s exterior is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but the sign that’s in place today is a 1984 replica of the original 1928 model. In 1930, that sign was changed to say “Paramount” after the film studio.
What will the new sign look like?
The “new” sign will look exactly like the current one, except that it will have fresh, unfaded paint, new electrical wiring, new lightbulb sockets and new neon letters. The renovation project will duplicate the existing design exactly.
When will the sign be taken down?
Work on the sign will begin May 2, 2017. It will come down in pieces with the final segments being removed by May 6, 2017. The full renovation is estimated to take 6-8 weeks, and be completed by late June.
How are you going to take the sign down?
The sign will come down in two main phases. The outer section, or the facing, on the north and south side that say “Portland”, will come down in three segments on each side. The “spine” that holds these sections in place will come down next and be worked on separately.
- While currently made out of steel, the new sign will incorporate aluminum to make it lighter and more weather resistant.
- As of 2014, all bulbs on the sign have been LEDs, saving 93,000 kWh of electricity a year.
- Cost of the renovation is about $500,000, paid for by Portland’5 Centers for the Arts Capital Fund
- The renovation is being completed by Tube Art Group
- The current sign was built and installed by Ballard Sign Company in Salem in 1984
- The sign is 65’ 4” tall, and 12’ 2” wide
- Unfortunately, we have no clue how much the sign weighs!
- There are currently bees living near the sign that will be moved to a new home if necessary.
- Any of the old steel skin and wiring will be recycled
- There are 1,096 bulbs in the sign