We dropped by to talk with Seann, new owner of the commercial building at 8320 SE Woodstock in Lents. We took photos of the work underway and discussed her plans for revitalizing the historic building.
Over the decades the property has been a parts store and motor repair shop. The detached sheds on the lot were once an electrical shop. Built in 1906, the building was owned by James and Dora Westover in the 1920s when it was the Westover Grocery Store.
LRR: So you saw this property and thought, “This is AWESOME???”
LRR: What got you to this place?
S: What got me to this was the need for affordable art space. I’m a ceramicist and I’ve outgrown the small studio I have.
It’s difficult. Things are really expensive in Portland right now…The more I talked to my friends, I realized just about every artist I know is looking for space to work. It feels like space is just disappearing. I’m still toying with a few ideas. I felt like it was high time to actually do something where I could facilitate various people doing a lot of things.
S: I’ve been getting these old tubs. They are just going to be hot tubs and swimming pools for the kids.
S: My original idea for the storefront was more work space, but folks in the neighborhood stop by all the time wondering what we’re doing and they keep asking if I’m going to open a business—everyone wants a café.
S: “Back in the day, when this was a grocery store, they had a bachelor living in the small room tacked onto the back of the building.”
LRR: Did all this stuff come with the space?
S: What came with the space was Chuck the Handyman and his wife Graci. Chuck worked for the previous owner. We’ve been pulling out massive amounts of peg board and shelving. You couldn’t walk in there, there was so much stuff.
We’ve had three 20 ft. dumpsters out here. Fortunately, Chuck has a bunch of other projects he’s working on so he’s reusing much of the material. Any metal and all of the wood he’s totally using on his projects, so it’s been fantastic.
LRR: What did the inspectors say?
S: The inspectors said it’s amazing. I couldn’t believe it. They said the electrical is impeccable, plumbing is great. Structurally the building has settled, but the only thing they suggested was to put a support beam downstairs.
LRR: So there was a draw, a reason you wanted to be here?
S: Honestly, I’ve always liked this neighborhood.
I’m from Oregon. I’ve been in Portland since I was 19, and I’ve lived in pretty much every neighborhood except southwest. I’ve lived in North Portland, NE, NW, Woodstock, and many, many places in SE. I lived on Alberta when it was cheap. I have bounced around because I’ve been poor, in all the poor neighborhoods where I could do art. I’m not exactly poor anymore, and I can help other people. And that feels like good citizenship.”
Interested in leasing this space? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Johanna Palmieri, photographer
D. Larson, editor