In a move that promises to elevate Portland’s cultural landscape, Portland State University (PSU) has unveiled a bold proposal for the construction of a cutting-edge performing arts center in downtown Portland. This visionary project aims to replace the aging Keller Auditorium and revitalize the heart of the city’s cultural scene. PSU’s proposal represents a forward-looking approach, blending state-of-the-art facilities with a commitment to sustainability and community engagement.
The City of Portland is confronted with a critical decision regarding the future of the Keller Auditorium, a historic 3,000-seat venue constructed in 1917 and last renovated in 1967. With the pressing need for seismic upgrades and extensive renovations, the city has been pondering two main options: a substantial overhaul of the Keller or the construction of a new venue to take its place. To explore these possibilities, the city granted funding to the Halprin Landscape Conservancy, according to a recent report in KGW8.
Throughout the evaluation process, the city reached out to several prominent stakeholders, including PSU, the Lloyd Center, and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). On Wednesday, PSU revealed its enthusiastic support for a brand-new performance venue, which would stand as a modern alternative to the aging Keller Auditorium.
PSU President Ann Cudd emphasized the university’s commitment to the city’s revitalization, stating, “Portland State University has been and will continue to be a powerful force in the revitalization of downtown Portland. Our proposal looks toward building for the future of this great city, not renovating its past.”
PSU’s comprehensive proposal envisions the construction of a 3,000-seat auditorium, an inviting outdoor plaza, an on-site boutique hotel, a versatile conference center, and educational facilities—all nestled in the heart of downtown Portland. Crucially, PSU’s plan ensures that the new venue would maintain the downtown location that the Keller currently occupies.
One of the standout features of PSU’s proposal is its commitment to keeping the Keller Auditorium operational during the construction period, offering continuity for the city’s arts and cultural events. Moreover, PSU is eager to engage with local communities for design input and plans to employ climate-friendly construction practices. The proposed site, owned by PSU, provides ample space for large vehicle parking and backstage loading bays, addressing logistical concerns efficiently.
While the location on Southwest Lincoln Street has not been disclosed, PSU has affirmed its intent to offer the city a long-term land lease on favorable terms. PSU has an impressive track record in urban development, having completed eight projects in the central city over the past 12 years, including the highly successful $111 million Vanport Building, co-owned with the City of Portland and three other entities, with a current estimated value exceeding $600 million.
Furthermore, PSU’s dynamic student body, which serves as a statewide talent pipeline for the arts and other industries, promises to bring new audiences and vibrancy to the venue. The proposed center’s daily use throughout the year is expected to have a significant positive impact on the arts community.
Leroy Bynum, Dean of PSU’s College of the Arts, commented, “This project will help unite and ignite the arts community for the benefit of all. Our proposal creates a venue for everyone, with strong educational and cultural connections and the space flexibility to ensure that the site better serves more of the local arts and theater community.”