Art DeMuro was the founder of Venerable and a highly-regarded leader in Portland’s historic preservation and real estate development community. He passed away on September 8, 2012 after a recent cancer diagnosis.
Art’s commitment and success in preserving and revitalizing Oregon’s historic resources for the previous 20 years was recognized with numerous awards. Along being a father to five children, Art considered his efforts in historic preservation and community revitalization to be the greatest achievements in life.
Art was born in Chicago on June 20, 1955 to Sam and Lorenza DeMuro—the youngest of four boys. He loved history and received his B.A. from the University of Notre Dame and his M.A. from the University of North Carolina. He began his career as a history teacher, but decided that teaching high school was not the right fit. Back in Phoenix, he joined his family in their real estate business. There, he had the fortunate opportunity to combine his love of history with real estate in the preservation of a historic building. This inspired him to further his career as a developer of historic properties in Portland. He said he was attracted to Portland, because unlike Phoenix, it had more opportunity with its many wonderful old buildings and historic districts.
He moved his family to Portland in 1991 and formed Venerable Group, Inc. During the next 21 years, Art touched many important historic properties in Portland, including the Minnesota Hotel, Telegram Building, Northwest Fence & Wire Works, the Ladd Carriage House, Mason Ehrman Building (PDC headquarters), Fire Station No. 7, and the White Stag Block. He considered White Stag—the Portland home of the University of Oregon—to be his crowning achievement in historic preservation. In addition to many historic properties, Art was also known for community-enhancing new construction and adaptive reuse projects like the Porter Glisan Building in the Pearl District, Irvington Corner, LaTorre Condominiums, Cascade Plaza in Gresham, and the Mill Pond Village housing development in Astoria.
Art was naturally gifted at building a network of relationships. He placed high importance on giving back to the community by donating time and money to organizations focusing on historic preservation and organizations working to improve livability in Oregon. In 2008, Venerable joined with the University of Oregon to establish the McMath Award for lifetime achievement in historic preservation with all proceeds benefiting the University of Oregon’s Historic Preservation Program. Art believed in supporting the next generation of historic preservationists and announced in 2011 a significant estate gift to the University’s Historic Preservation Program.
He was a trusted voice in historic redevelopment. Art served on the Portland Landmarks Commission for ten years and was chair for the last three years. He was appointed by City officials to numerous advisory committees focused on preservation and planning. In 2003-04, he rallied the community to ensure the City Council’s passage of the Historic Resources Code Amendment—a package of zoning and building code amendments to strengthen the City’s historic preservation programs and to restrict demolition of historic buildings. He was a member of the University of Oregon’s Architecture & Allied Arts Board of Visitors, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Architectural Heritage Center, and Restore Oregon.