Congress Square

Congress and High Streets, Portland  

The Issue

In 2013 Portland’s City Council approved a purchase and sale agreement for a portion of Congress Square at the corner of High and Congress Street. Rockbridge Capital, owners of the former Eastland Hotel, planned to develop an events center on the site of the park with remaining portion of the site to be redesigned by the city. Located at a key intersection in the Congress Street Historic District and in the Arts District, the existing open space was underutilized and in need of a creative redesign.

A lengthy public debate and court battle led to a vote by Portland voters to save the entirety of Congress Square for public use. A newly formed citizen’s group, the Friends of Congress Square Park, stepped in to organize events and finance improvements. Their hard work has enlivened the park and created a gathering space that benefits nearby residents, visitors, and local businesses.

Our Position

Landmarks supports a creative redesign of Congress Square Park, provided it be of quality, sensitivity, and integrity to fit into the context of the Congress Square intersection and the surrounding highly significant architecture including the State Theatre Building, the Portland Museum of Art complex, theEastland Hotel, and the Congress Street Historic District.

Landmarks supported the recommendation to consider the event facility proposal with certain caveats: The optimal design solution for the public requires that the structure, public portion of the plaza and the intersection all be considered in conjunction with each other. The ultimate design needs to be of quality, sensitivity, and integrity to fit into the context of highly significant architecture that borders the square. Landmarks argued that if the design failed to meet this standard as judged by the Historic Preservation Board and the Planning Board, the City should not proceed with the sale.

Following the public debate, court battle and city-wide vote by Portland voters to save the entirety of Congress Square for public use, Landmarks has directed their efforts to the future of the 1888 Union Station Clock works that were moved to the site in the 1980s. The clock was named to Landmarks 2013 Places in Peril list.


Quick Links

What You Can Do

  • Contact city leaders and urge them to support funding for final design plans for the park and the surrounding intersection. 
  • Attend workshops to express the need for a new design of the intersection that is creative and includes high quality open space. 
  • Learn more about the efforts of the Friends of Congress Square Park or attend one of their many 'In the Square' events!
  • Join our mailing list to stay informed about advocacy, educational programs, and upcoming events.
  • Support the advocacy efforts of Landmarks by becoming a member or making a donation today.