Renovation of Powell’s City of Books

PORTLAND — Powell’s City of Books is getting a face lift at just 42 years old. It’s a new chapter for one of the city’s most important icons. Over the years, Powell’s has been upgrading various parts of the book block at Northwest 10th Street and West Burnside Street. The latest phase, currently underway, will be the last and one of the largest phases in this decades-long upgrade.

The Blue and Green rooms are getting more than just a fresh coat of paint. The sections will get new lighting and skylights, a floor plan upgrade, and a new front entrance with more space.

The main reason for the remodel, however, is less about looks and more about safety. This section of Powell’s multi-building property was once home to a car dealership. Now, the store wants to upgrade it to modern earthquake standards and safety codes.

A leaky roof that’s plagued the store since the 1980s will also be fixed.

“This is the last corner to be remodeled,” Miriam Sontz, CEO of Powell’s Books, said. “I think it’s going to do what we want it to do, which is to retain the sort of icon look of the building, but bring it into the safety codes of the 21st century.”

Some 150,000 books had to be moved elsewhere in the store to begin the six-month remodel.

Powell’s is investing well over $1 million in the project at a time when many independent bookstores are closing.

The store will remain open during the remodel, with the entrance at Northwest 11th Street and Couch Avenue acting as the temporary front door.

The building will be rededicated when the remodel is done sometime in August 2014.

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