It’s sad to see how the Greyhound Bus depot has fallen on hard times. The building which replaced a temporary rural-style metal shed was a major upgrade for intercity bus passengers passing through Portland. Until being demolished in the early 1990s, a 1939 streamlined-moderne building served as the Greyhound station on southwest Taylor between 5th and 6th Avenues, a site now occupied by the Hilton Executive Tower. This land was once home to the historic Corbett mansion from 1875-1936. The city requested at least one of the original neon signs be preserved for posterity. I am not sure where the sign ended up. Located adjacent to Union Station, a new station opened in 1985 as a part of the north end of the Bus Mall (now Portland Transit Mall).
Designed by Skidmore Owens & Merrill, the building features a unique 128-ton roof suspended from 55 ft poles affording a completely open plan unencumbered by columns. The structure is mostly one story with a basement dormitory at one end which is sometimes used by bus drivers during layovers. The total area of the ground floor is approximately 37,000 SF and the basement adds an additional 11,100 SF.
The construction was financed with $6.5M investment from Greyhound Lines and $900,000 public funds for site prep and demo. The project was approved by the city under three conditions: exterior design review, any exterior signage be approved and that the architect consider reuse of signs from the old building.
Winning an AIA Honor Award in 1984, jurors asked: “Whoever said that a bus station couldn’t be a fine example of contemporary urban architecture? A bus station which attracts rather than repels is unfortunately a rarity in America.” But due to years of neglect, falling airfares, long-term legacy costs and lack of system investment the bus depot is a shadow of what it once was.
Greyhound managers have discussed the spatial needs and program requirements of the station. Many of the existing spaces on the ground floor in the building are too large and are underutilized given current service levels. Some spaces are not needed for Greyhound operations under current corporate service standards, such as the restaurant in the waiting area. The dormitory located in the basement at the north end of the building may be functionally obsolete as Greyhound drivers typically live in Portland and do not sleep over at the facility. Outsourcing is possible for drivers that need to stay overnight during storms using hotel accommodations rather than maintaining an in-house dormitory.
A 2009 report recommended the relocation of the bus terminal to a site across the street from Union Station with support spaces housed in Union Station.
Editors note: Greyhound operated an administration and maintenance facility on SW Hood in 1930 which was recently torn down.