The Figo House
Acker + Associates P.C. moved to the Figo House in 2005 to accommodate its growing practice. The building allows the firm to remain in downtown Portland but also provide parking and convenient access for clients. Built in 1894, the building was described by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) as a good example of a vernacular Queen Ann house.
TriMet, a local transportation development authority, sought to acquire the house through the use of its eminent domain powers. TriMet argued that it needed the land for public transportation purposes. TriMet had already begun the Portland Mall Project, consisting of the construction of tracks for a new MAX train running through the heart of downtown Portland and parallel to the Willamette River. TriMet intended to request additional funds from the Federal Transit Administration to acquire the property and demolish the house.
Simultaneously, TriMet was negotiating a “confidential” agreement with Portland State University (PSU) wherein TriMet would acquire the property and then transfer it to PSU for the construction of a large dormitory.
Starting in December of 2006, Acker + Associates P.C. fought to preserve the house. The fight took the form of an investigation of TriMet, its intentions and its records; and protracted negotiations and meetings with its representatives. Acker + Associates P.C. conferred with city, state and federal agencies; neighborhood organizations; and preservation groups. A press campaign resulted in coverage by all the major newspapers in the area. Pamphlets and even “Save the Figo House” buttons were created and distributed.
On February 8, 2008, TriMet delivered a letter to Acker + Associates P.C. stating that it is no longer considering the possibility of acquiring the Figo House. The letter further provides that TriMet and PSU will proceed with development options that will not include the Figo House.
With the exception of the Figo House, TriMet proceeded to acquire and demolish all of the buildings on two city blocks. Many of the other property owners also fought TriMet’s use of eminent domain but were unsuccessful.
In September 2009, the new MAX train lines (Green and Yellow) became operational, with a turnaround across the street from the Figo House.
The Figo House city block was transferred to PSU, with the exception of the TriMet tracks on the east and west sides and the Figo House property in the middle of the south side. PSU then leased the property to a private entity, American Campus Communities, which built a 16 story dormitory/mixed use building around the Figo House, that it financed for $90 million.
To get the dormitory structure approved by the planning department and address the concerns raised by Acker & Associates, a courtyard was constructed immediately behind the Figo House, the heighth on the west side of the Figo House was limited to two stories (so as not to block the setting sun from the Figo House), and a rooftop garden was planted.
The new structure was completed and occupied as of September 2012. Recent additions to the bottom retail level include Joe’s Burgers, Noah’s Bagels, and a frozen yogurt shop. New MAX stops were added, creating convenient access to our offices.
Click HERE for a photo history of The Figo House.
Related Newspaper Articles:
House Divided: One man and his 113-year-old property vs. Trimet, Willamette Week (Dec. 5, 2007)
Leave the house alone, Editorial, The Oregonian (Jan. 7, 2008)
Last house standing, The Vanguard (Jan. 29, 2008)
TriMet decides not to buy old Figo House near PSU, The Oregonian (Feb. 8, 2008)
Figo house to stay standing, The Vanguard (Feb. 13, 2008)
The push back, The Vanguard (Feb. 18, 2009)
PSU moving forward on new residence hall on Southwest Fifth Avenue, The Oregonian (May 29, 2010)