By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: Perfect storm puts old buildings at risk

McMinnville may be headed toward a prolonged demolition derby. But instead of old cars crashing one another into oblivion, this event could feature the destruction of old buildings.


Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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Some people will decry the outcome as a loss of local historic identity; some will welcome the opportunity to replace old, failing structures with modern facilities; some owners of historic buildings will face frustration when neither renovation nor replacement is financially feasible for a potential buyer.

Evolving government regulations and practices have produced a perfect storm driving building renovation costs ever-skyward.

Stringent building and fire codes can be applied with authoritarian levels of enforcement. When combined with new government rules to protect and preserve historic buildings, a property owner can become collateral damage during long and expensive clashes with government regulatory agencies.

Few historic building owners were paying close attention in 2017 when McMinnville adopted a complex ordinance with this preface:

“Districts, buildings, objects, structures and sites in the city having special historical, architectural or cultural significance should be preserved as a part of the city’s heritage. To this end, regulatory controls and administrative procedures are necessary.”

We’ve heard many local stories about property owners experiencing unexpected delays and excessive costs while navigating new regulatory systems. But lately, the most dramatic tales involve buildings owned by the government itself.

Government, of course, must subject itself to the same standards it imposes on private property owners. That reality has McMinnville citizens considering possibilities of future demolition for our 1924 community center, 1928 city hall, 1954 aquatic center, even our 1988 fire station. And what about our 1913 Carnegie library and 1964 county courthouse?

As we reported recently, “If new centers are built, the fate of the old ones would be unknown. Perhaps they could be repurposed by the city or a private party, but the reality that new construction costs about the same as renovation may put that possibility in serious doubt.”

The cost of renovating old buildings “to code” has skyrocketed, matching and even exceeding the price of demolition and replacement. Many owners will be forced to allow continued building deterioration because the preferred fix would trigger massive rehab costs, which bodes ill for McMinnville’s cherished downtown historic district.

It may be that in its haste to protect and preserve, government has created the likelihood that more old buildings eventually must be abandoned and demolished. Meanwhile, with no easy answers, government still must make some hard decisions.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1223.



This story brings to mind an old public building remodel. The square footage of Cook School could of been torn down and rebuilt for about half of the renovation cost. Oh I forgot it was taxpayer money so it doesn’t make any difference what it cost.

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