Little by little, building by building, Old Town is catching up with the rest of downtown. Its newest addition? The Oregon College of Oriental Medicine (OCOM), slated to move into the old Globe Hotel building in fall of 2010.


OCOM's new headquarters in the Globe Hotel building (Ankrom Moisan Associated Architects)

The building, also known as Import Plaza, is being gutted on the inside and updated to fit earthquake codes, but its historical façade will remain. Only a few cosmetic changes, such as new window frames (the current ones are in various stages of deterioration) and a new coat of paint to more closely match the original color of the Globe Hotel, will be implemented.

The Portland Historic Landmark Commission approved the design for the 98-year-old building submitted by architect Greg Vohs, of Ankrom Moisan Associated Architects, which includes a 4,200 square-foot penthouse addition. The original design, which featured a sloped roof, was rejected because the commission felt it did not keep in character with Old Town.

“We redesigned it to make it much more utilitarian,” Vohs said of the approved, flat-roofed design.

OCOM’s new location at NW Couch and 1st Avenue will join Mercy Corps in the Skidmore Fountain Building and the University of Oregon in the White Stag Building in Old Town Chinatown, representing the community’s effort to revitalize the historic neighborhood, known now primarily for its cabarets and as a safe haven for the homeless.

“I think [the move] is really going to change the dynamic down there. With OCOM, University of Oregon, and Mercy Corps…it’s going to make it a different place. There will be more people on the street during the daytime,” Vohs said.

The Globe Hotel building will also house one or two retail spaces on the ground floor and potentially a community events space, as well. In addition to OCAM’s classrooms and offices, there will be an Oriental medicine clinic open to the public six days a week.

Note: The “Import Plaza” sign that still rotates above the building is being preserved but changed to read “OCOM.” So far, this has not spurred controversy on the scale of the White Stag/Made in Oregon sign. Yet.

Michael Gaeta, OCOM’s president, was not available for comment.

-Rachael Marcus