City, grants help ‘Illuminate Oregon City’

Outside the elevator in Oregon City, July 10, 2013 (KOIN 6 News/Ellen Hansen)
Outside the elevator in Oregon City, July 10, 2013 (KOIN 6 News/Ellen Hansen)

OREGON CITY, Ore. (KOIN) — You can’t miss the big elevator in downtown Oregon City.

An artist rendering of the project called "Illuminate Oregon City," July 10, 2013 (Courtesy to KOIN 6 News)
An artist rendering of the project called “Illuminate Oregon City,” July 10, 2013 (Courtesy to KOIN 6 News)

A new project called “Illuminate Oregon City” will change the look of the elevator with a light art exhibit. Beginning next year, a video will be projected on the outside of the elevator for a year.

The city is matching a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for the light-art exhibit. The city is also spending about $115,000 of taxpayer money to paint the outside of the elevator and the tunnel and add accent lighting and new signs.

“This is a public structure,” said Lloyd Purdy, the director of Main Street Oregon City. “The city’s investment in this structure is looking after their asset. It’s a vertical street that does vertical lifting. It does heavy lifting for us everyday, bringing employees, residents and visitors into and out of downtown.”

Plans call for the 130-foot shaft to be painted silver and white, lit up and used a canvas for art.

“We are going to bring this structure back to life,” said Lloyd Purdy, director of Main Street Oregon City.

The goal, Purdy said, is to transform the nearly 60-year-old elevator into a video screen.

“The idea behind this project is to use art, use place-making, and use creativity to celebrate a local icon,” he said.

But it’s not cheap.

An artist rendering of the project called "Illuminate Oregon City," July 10, 2013 (Courtesy to KOIN 6 News)
An artist rendering of the project called “Illuminate Oregon City,” July 10, 2013 (Courtesy to KOIN 6 News)

In all, Illuminating Oregon is a $230,000 project. Money to commission an artist and project videos for the next year will come out of the $100,000 National Endowment for the Arts grant. The $115,000 from Oregon City taxpayers will pay for improvements to the elevator itself: the new paint job, accent lighting and better signage. An extra $15,000 will come from a Metro grant.

“If taxpayer money is involved, maybe taxpayers should have a voice,” said Oregon City business owner Gary Wickwire.

Wickwire has owned an antique shop near the base of the elevator on 7th Street since the 1960s. He says he wasn’t aware money from the city’s general fund would be used. However, he said the elevator — which gives more than 10,000 rides a month — is a landmark in their town … and worth it.

“The elevator to me is the No. 1 attraction; people come here because it’s a big deal,” Wickwire said. “I don’t mind my taxes going to something like that. I’m in favor.”

Sandra Gillman owns a hat shop across the street. This longtime Oregon City resident called the project an investment.

“I’ve seen how the new restaurants bring people in; I know for a fact tourists come in to see the elevator,” Gillman told KOIN 6 News. “More tourists means more cash for me maybe!”

Related resource:

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