United States Custom House

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"Boston Police" squad cars sit in the Portland Custom House parking lot. They're props for a scene in the TV series, Leverage.

The United States Custom House is a U.S. Federal building built in 1901. The U.S. Federal Government's General Services Administration (GSA) put the building up for auction [1] through their Real Property Disposal Office. Bidding commenced on Tuesday, May 25, 2010 and was extended in late September, 2010.[2] The Real Property Disposal Office's "suggested opening bid"[3] stood at $2,500,000 at the start of bidding. The actual opening bid, according to the "bid history" shown on the GSA's auction page was just $25,000, a tenth of the suggested opener.[4] A bid equal to the suggested $2,500,000 opening bid amount was finally reached the day of the bid's extended close date: Monday October 4, 2010.

Big Ideas

After sitting vacant for years, Portland's U.S. Custom House is on the GSA's auction block. Now Portlandians have a choice to make:

1. continue lamely staring at the tops of our muddy shoes in regret for failing to come up with a viable plan to make good use of this architectural treasure, or
2. come up with a wonderful idea and a coherent plan to turn your brainstorm into reality.

What is YOUR fantastic idea for Portland's Custom House? (Please list and describe your own idea, or improve upon one of the ideas featured below.)

Museum of Contemporary Art

A publicly-owned Museum of Contemporary Art, self-funded by admissions (or co-developed between the Portland Art Museum and public entities), revenue operations (gift shops, event rental) and donations. The collection could start with Jordon Schnitzer's contemporary art collection (see A chat with Jordan Schnitzer and the City of Portland's art collection, as well as other works of contemporary art to be loaned, donated or otherwise acquired in the future. Also may include non-traditional art collections such as apparel, weapons and other historical goods put in a artistic concept, maybe even tying into the Museum of Craft next door.

TV Prop

For television shows like Leverage or other Hollywood drivel.

Boutique Hotel

To round out the list of 510 other boutique hotels that Google Maps locates in or near Portland.

Public Market

An ideal public-private partnership (PPP) showcase, even though this idea apparently went nowhere the last time it was floated.

Private School

For children of Portland's overly privileged, and/or their pets.

Commons House

A theatrical showcase for a long-running series of one-act farcical comedies billed as Tragedy At The Commons.


A venue where Apple product aficionados can sidle up to the iSubGenius bar, whip out their iGadgets and affectionately iStroke them.

Bicycle Repair Shop

For really awesome vintage bicycles.

Giant, Architecturally Superior Coffee House

Maybe we can get the Last Poets to perform at the grand opening.

External Links