Fostering the Phoenix

There’s been hope, and there’s been speculation.  And now there’s movement and directed energy for the potential crown jewel in the Foster landscape.

While the Phoenix Pharmacy Building, at 6515 SE Foster, has sat vacant for several years, save for the occasional stove sale or tour of the site, it’s promise is undeniable.  And it is that promise that Matt Froman, son of the building’s owner, Robert (Buck), seeks to realize.  If his goal is accomplished, Froman will turn a former drug store owned by John Leach — that of the Leach Botanical Garden fame — into an iconic building that anchors the heart of Foster with an historical aesthetic.

In June, the Phoenix Pharmacy Building underwent a feasibility study with the aid of the Portland Development Commission (PDC), and it was determined the site could potentially accommodate a bar/restaurant, as well as retail and office space.  No seismic upgrades would be needed, but renovations would be necessary to attract a future tenant.  With that in mind, the possibilities became more evident, even if it would take time, money, and some serious sweat.

Despite the burdensome costs and daunting task of renovation, it is the promise of the building that keeps Froman enthusiastic and the neighborhood eager to see what comes of the space.  In fact, Oregonian writer, Michael Russell, even opined this morning that the former Phoenix Pharmacy is one of four Portland buildings that he wishes will become a restaurant someday.  And if the neighborhood and Froman had their wish, Russell would be spot on.

There’s more than just promise and hope, though.  In addition to the feasibility study in June, Froman has been busy seeking grant money to fix the image of the building.  So while structural and interior renovations will prove to be costly, the interim is bringing an exterior renewal of the site.  Earlier in the year, the Phoenix Pharmacy was awarded a grant through Southeast Uplift’s Neighborhood Small Grant program to fund a mural on the building’s west wall (overlooking Foster Road).  And now, to make the mural that much bigger and impressive, Froman has applied for another grant with the Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC).  There will be a public review meeting for this application, and all are welcome to attend.  For more information on that meeting, see below:

Regional Arts & Culture Council
Meeting Notice

Meeting Name: Public Art Mural Committee
Meeting Date: Tuesday, September 5, 2012
Meeting Time: 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM
Location: Regional Arts & Culture Council Board Room, 411 NW Park Avenue, Ottum Room.

 The public is invited to attend and comment at this review of a mural by the Public Art Advisory Committee, Mural Committee of the Regional Arts & Culture Council.  Please reply to Cheryl Norton at if you will attend.

 Notice of Review of Public Art Mural Application for:
6616 SE Foster Road

The proposed mural at 6616 SE Foster Road will be placed on the west side of the Phoenix Pharmacy building, on the section of the wall directly above the adjacent building.  The mural will feature classic Foster landmarks such as the Bob White Theatre, Phoenix Pharmacy, period transportation, and references to the original Phoenix Pharmacy owners, John and Lila Leach.  The stretch of Foster Road where the building mural site would be located, has been through many changes since the 1920s and is part of a renewed interest to bring new businesses, art, and foot traffic back into the area.

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16 Responses to Fostering the Phoenix

  1. Anti-m says:

    Huh. I hate to be a detractor, but I am ambivalent about a mural on this historic building. Would the mural be a temporary fixture en route to restoring the wrap-around windows? Perhaps I’m being of the fuddy and duddy, but I feel like a mural would detract from the historic charm of the structure. Perhaps the money would be better invested in a more “period” exterior renovation?

    I’m delighted in any case that there is interest in restoring this beautiful space.

  2. Aaron says:

    I agree with Anti; put a mural on something lacking other visual interest. For the Phoenix, highlight and enhance its original architecture.

  3. Tim says:

    I love this building, but the idea of sipping a nice dry gin martini while looking at the dollar store and the save-a-lot, would make even the best gin taste a little off…

  4. Robert Bierma says:

    I also agree with Anti and Aaron.

  5. Mateo says:

    The Mural would go on the current blank West Wall that once was (current Graffiti covers now) This would help detour this problem. We will in no way mess with the original architecture beauty of this building. Check out to learn more.

    Great Article! This is news to us. best place for breaking local news! keep up the great work

    • Mateo says:

      To help clarify, the boards around the building will comedown and the glass windows will return upon renovation. The proposed mural will be elevated on the west wall above the AAA Appliance Building. Come to the meeting and you can see a sketch of the mural

  6. Mateo says:

    Also, there would some limited seismic upgrades but not a total retrofit, the roof would need to comply with current seismic regulations which is a ton of $$$$$$. Lottery tickets anyone?

  7. Mateo says:

    The correct address of the Phoenix Pharmacy Building is 6615 SE Foster. The mural will be on the west wall of the original 1922 structure above the appliance store where graffiti currently is, HUGE upgrade. Beautiful Historic Imagery

  8. Anti-m says:

    Thanks, Mateo, that information is helpful. Perhaps you could you post a picture on your Foster the Phoenix website showing the wall in question? (I will be out of town for the hearing, so I wont be able to see the public presentation of the plans, but I am very interested in the preservation/restoration of this space.) Thanks for your work on restoring this building to its former glory!

  9. Mateo says:

    Anyone know the correct date for the mural meeting. Tuesday is the 4th with the 5th of September being Wednesday…..

    • Good question….I’m not sure. I just now noticed they have the dates mismatched.

      • Mateo says:

        Received an email today from the RACC confirming the date of the meeting. It will be taking place this Wednesday, the 5th at the RACC HQ in NW Portland. Hope to see many people there to show support for this amazing historical mural.

  10. Kristie says:

    I will be there!

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