Mt. Scott’s historic ‘Phoenix Pharmacy’ building prepares to reopen

INCLUDES VIDEO | Here’s what’s been going on at the outer East Portland building where John Leach, of Leach Botanical Garden, originally built his pharmacy …

Not that long ago, this beautiful staircase to the second-floor offices of the historic Phoenix Pharmacy building was a gutter for the rain coming through open holes in the roof.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Those traveling S.E. Foster Road in the Foster-Powell neighborhood have likely noticed changes outside the historic building, occupying the northwest corner at the intersection with 67th Avenue.

Originally, the Phoenix Pharmacy building was constructed in 1922 by John Leach, a pharmacist who is now better known for his legacy project, Leach Botanical Garden.

When we last visited the old pharmacy building back in 2019, it was boarded up. On the second floor, plastic sheets were catching and diverting rivulets of water when it rained through holes in the roof. And, you had to be careful while navigating the stairs.

The project manager of the building’s redevelopment, and an owner of Foster the Phoenix LLC, Matt Froman showed us a pill box, hidden away for decades, in the corner of the former pharmacy building.

“Fast-forward, three years later – now we have a lot more clarity of what’s happening here with the building,” said Matt Froman, an owner of Foster the Phoenix LLC.

“We have the upstairs completely renovated with five offices, and they’re all leased out!” Froman told East Portland News during a mid-March visit.

On the main floor, workers were preparing the space for the new main tenant, Foster Outdoor – the outdoor adventure shop that’s moving two blocks west of their current location, and scheduled to be reopening there on May 14.

In this view down from the mezzanine level, the interior of the ground floor level of the old Phoenix Pharmacy building on Foster Road continues be improved.

“Since we last talked, we’ve put a new roof on the building, with seismic upgrades; installed a new HVAC system upstairs; and all of the classic double-hung upstairs windows have been repaired,” Froman disclosed.

Years ago, he and the other owners dreamed of putting a restaurant, a coffee shop, and perhaps a jazz club, in the downstairs historic space. “But now, I’m working more as a building preservationist,” Froman explained. “Keeping it a retail space made the most sense, because then we don’t have to do a ‘change of occupancy’ to meet City Code.”

After seeing a patient in the upstairs offices, Kate Pope, an acupuncturist, heads out of the building through the refinished doorway.

Every now and then, passersby would poke their heads in, take a look at the renovation taking place, and give the work a nod of approval. “Being a homegrown Portland kid, it’s important to me to keep some historical buildings in the city, instead of just bulldozing them to make more square footage,” said Froman.

Take a video tour of the renovations, and new office space in this historic building:

“It’s great to hear stories from the older community members who stop by, telling what they remember seeing here at this corner some 40, 50 or 70 years ago, in some cases. It’s really fun to hear that history which we’re bringing back to life!”

Working above in the building’s landmark curved portico, Eric Furlong is making improvements for the incoming ground-floor tenant, Foster Outdoor.

May be designated a ‘Historic Building’
The first round of consideration by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department’s Oregon Heritage State Historic Preservation Office has been passed, and it’s now sending a recommendation ” to the National Historic Registry to designate this as an “Historic Building” in Portland.

“We’re hoping that this happens within the next six months or so,” announced Froman. “This will allow us more protections for the building, and also some incentives that will help us keep the rent steady for the tenants.”

With the boards over the windows removed, and new front doors installed, the Phoenix Pharmacy building restoration project nears completion.

With the renovations and new tenants, this historic building on Foster Road is living up to its original name – the “Phoenix” building. We look forward in the near future to reporting its official Grand Reopening.

© 2022 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™

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