Posted on August 6, 2014 at 6:58 PM
PORTLAND (KGW) -- Some call it an eyesore. Others say it's an environmental and safety hazard. But its owner considers it a piece of history.
Sections of a century-old warehouse on the Willamette River are collapsing right into the water. The building is on the east bank near the Fremont Bridge.
"It looks old, dilapitaded," said Sylvia Bueno as she walked along the west bank across from the building. "Like a gust of wind could knock it over."
If you've been on or along the Willamette River near downtown Portland, you too have most likely seen it. You may be surprised to know this is actually an operational storage warehouse.
"People have asked about it," said Travis Williams, executive director of the Willamette Riverkeeper.
He's been worried about the building for months now.
"You have woody debris that has fallen into the Willamette there. We don't know what was on that. We don't know what was inside that building or the portion of it that apparently collapsed," said Williams.
From the river, you can clearly see some of the outer walls are collapsing. Some have already fallen into the river below.
According to Portland's fire marshal, a portion of the building is listed as both unsafe and dangerous.
We went inside to check it out. We found it is still storing a lot of stuff, everything from cars and trucks to some pretty big pieces of equipment.
The storage warehouse's manager Ron Pinchot assured us, despite appearances, the building is stable.
"It hasn't had any movement over the last four years," he said.
When asked what he thought of the leaning wall that looks like it's about to collapse, Pinchot replied, "Yes it looks like that. But our engineers are telling us it's not."
Pinchot said the damage started to happen after several local barges ran into the pilings years ago.
And although the owner has done a lot of repairs, millions of dollars in repairs remain and time is ticking.
Last month the DEQ sent a letter to the building's owner requiring him to clean up the debris in the river. But Williams said that has not yet happened.
Pinchot said he and the warehouse owner are doing everything they can to preserve the building, which was built back in 1898.
Their goal is to fix it up and, one day, turn it into a cultural center.