PNCA begins transformation of Historic Portland Post Office to New Home

February 04, 2014


Becca Biggs
Director of Communications

PNCA begins transformation of Historic Portland Post Office to Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Center for Art and Design

PORTLAND, OR – February 4, 2014 – Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) has started construction on a $32 million transformation of the historic 511 Federal Building, once the central post office, at 511 NW Broadway Street in Portland, Oregon. This new hub for creative practice and collaboration will open in January 2015 as the Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Center for Art and Design.

PNCA’s expansion will bring new vitality to Portland’s North Park Blocks, as well as the Old Town and Chinatown neighborhoods. The Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Center for Art and Design will become the flagship of PNCA’s North Park Blocks campus, which includes the student residence, ArtHouse (which opened in September 2013), and Museum of Contemporary Craft. Along with developing a dynamic campus on the North Park Blocks, the expansion positions the College to continue growing the student body over the next decade.

“PNCA fosters creative problem solving by preparing students for a life of creative practice grounded in critical thinking. With its location in the heart of Portland’s thriving Creative District, our new campus allows us to greatly expand our ability to deliver the kind of innovative education our students need for the 21st century,” said Tom Manley, PNCA President. “Our students will activate the North Parks and create a new focal point for creative entrepreneurship. We are extremely grateful to the Portland community and the many supporters who have helped us turn a seven-year dream into a reality.”

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales said, “We expect PNCA to do for the city’s North Park Blocks what PSU’s expansion has done for the South Park Blocks. We are proud to be a part of PNCA’s vision for expansion and revitalization – not just of the old post office, but also the surrounding neighborhoods and the community where its students live. Creativity is essential to Portland’s economic development, and I expect this school of influence to have a significant impact on growing our local economy.”

Acclaimed architect Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture created the plans for adaptive reuse that will preserve key historical features of the 134,000 square-foot building, which opened in 1919, while introducing contemporary design and dynamic flow to the light-filled core of the building. The project’s general contractor is Howard S. Wright, with Gerding Edlen as project manager.

Allied Works’ design will highlight new areas for public programs and arts education, with exemplary spaces for art exhibitions, lectures, and events in addition to classrooms, production facilities, an elegant library, and innovation studio and incubator. The building, originally designed by architect Lewis P. Hobart, is identified as the geographic center of Portland by a U.S. Geological Survey marker on its rooftop. It was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1979.

PDC Financing

The Portland Development Commission (PDC) is a significant partner in the development of PNCA’s new home. PDC was granted a deed for the 511 NW Broadway building from the National Park Service through a national monument transfer. The PDC will lease the building back to PNCA for 99 years at $1 per year. The Commission, with support from the City of Portland, has committed to $20.3 million in bridge and long-term financing to PNCA for the project. The College also received a $740,000 grant from PDC for project planning and design.

“We are deeply grateful for the support of PDC in this visionary remodel, which positions PNCA to be a cultural bridge between the Pearl District, the North Park Blocks and Old Town and Chinatown,” said Manley. “It was PDC Board Chair John Russell who initiated this in 2002 when he sent the original inquiry about redeveloping the building.”

Creativity Works Here Campaign

In June 2012 PNCA launched a $15 million philanthropic campaign, CREATIVITY WORKS HERE, to support its strategic move to renovate the historic former federal post office building.

CREATIVITY WORKS HERE, led by honorary co-chairs Arlene Schnitzer and Dorothy Lemelson and a Campaign Cabinet of volunteer community leaders, has raised more than 75% of its $15 million goal since the campaign was launched 18 months ago with a lead gift from PNCA alumna Arlene Schnitzer to name the Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Center for Art and Design. Under the leadership of current PNCA Board Chair Ann Edlen and incoming chair Aric Wood, Board members have contributed more than $3.3 million to the effort.

Some major commitments to the campaign to date include $1 million from Dorothy Lemelson to establish the Dorothy Lemelson Innovation Studio, $1 million from Al Solheim to name the Solheim Library, $500,000 from the William . G. Gilmore Foundation, Mary Lee Boklund, President; $500,000 from the estate of Ernest Swigert in honor of past PNCA president Sally Lawrence; $400,000 from the Meyer Memorial Trust; $350,000 from The Collins Foundation, $350,000 from Maribeth Collins, and $300,000 from the Swigert-Warren Foundation.

“Our deep sincere thanks to everyone who is supporting this campaign,” said Manley. “Portland-style collaboration is essential to PNCA, and we are deeply grateful to everyone who’s helped make today a reality. We expect this to change PNCA and Portland for generations to come.”

People interested in learning more about PNCA and this exciting community initiative can visit

About Pacific Northwest College of Art
As Oregon’s flagship college of art and design since 1909, Pacific Northwest College of Art has helped shape Oregon’s visual arts landscape for more than a century. PNCA students study with award-winning faculty in small classes. In the last seven years, PNCA has doubled both the student body and full-time faculty, quadrupled its endowment, and added innovative undergraduate and graduate programs. PNCA is now embarking on its boldest venture yet by establishing the Arlene & Harold Schnitzer Center for Art and Design as an anchor for the College’s vision of a new campus home on Portland’s North Park Blocks. Focusing on the transformative power of creativity, the Creativity Works Here capital campaign was launched in June 2012 with a lead gift from The Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation of $5 million. PNCA’s new home will be a bustling hub for creativity and entrepreneurship, reflecting the influential role of art and design in our 21st century economy – both in Portland and beyond. For more information visit