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Literary Arts readies for Central Eastside relocation

The Portland nonprofit intends its new headquarters to serve as “a true cultural hub in our community.”

This artistic rendering shows an open space with light-colored hardwood floors, bookshelves along multiple walls, floor-to-ceiling artwork, a mezzanine, and small tables for people to read or work at.

“Not only will it be one of the largest physical centers in the nation for literature and storytelling, but it will also stand as a love letter to this city that has been our home for four decades,” said Andrew Proctor, executive director at Literary Arts.

Rendering by Bora Architecture & Interiors

Literary Arts is about to start a new chapter. The Portland nonprofit “with a mission to engage readers, support writers, and inspire the next generation with great literature” will relocate its downtown headquarters to the Central Eastside.

The organization behind programs like Portland Arts & Lectures and the Oregon Book Awards has outgrown its offices in the Pittock Block. After touring more than 40 buildings in the search for a new home, Literary Arts landed on a historic property at 716 SE Grand Ave. Constructed in 1904, the building originally housed Strowbridge Hardware and, later, a furniture store. At 14,000 sqft, it’s a sizeable upgrade for Literary Arts — 170% larger than the organization’s current downtown digs.

“The moment we stepped into this two-story gem, steeped in history with its exposed brick and original floors, it was as if Literary Arts had found its home,” said Amy Donohue, architect and principal at Bora Architecture and Literary Arts board member.

Bora Architecture & Interiors is working with Literary Arts to maximize the space’s potential for staff and the community, creating what Donohue refers to as “a welcoming environment for all, irrespective of age, income, race, education, or geographical background — a true cultural hub in our community.”

A rendering of the future Literary Arts headquarters shows a mezzanine with bookshelves and a connected office with an open view to the lower main level.

Dedicated space for staff will allow them privacy to focus on their work, while still feeling connected.

Rendering by Bora Architecture & Interiors

Literary Arts, which will continue its online offerings, aims to open the center to the public this October — in time for its 40th anniversary and ahead of the Portland Book Festival in November. Here’s what you can expect:

  • A bookstore + cafe
  • Classroom + event spaces
  • Writing areas
  • Staff offices
  • A recording studio for radio show/podcast, “The Archive Project”

Relocation and renovation costs are estimated at approx. $13 million, including the $3.5 million Literary Arts paid for the building in 2022. The organization aims to cover the rest through fundraising.

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