In 1991, Art DeMuro combined his extensive real estate background with his passion for historic preservation to form Venerable—a full service commercial real estate firm specializing in the preservation and adaptive reuse of historic commercial properties. The company is recognized as one of Portland’s top ten commercial developers and the most successful redeveloper of historic commercial properties as confirmed with numerous awards.
Venerable’s staying power is attributed to the firm’s long-term retention of a superior, dedicated staff and sustenance of long-term business relationships. During the past 20 years, Venerable has grown from one to 10 staff members, of which six have been with the firm for over 10 years. The staff’s longevity is due to the firm’s philosophy of providing opportunities for growth, creativity and open communication. This stability and continuity in relationships has enabled Venerable to operate swiftly and predictably in a field that is rife with challenge and risk.
Venerable places high importance on giving back to the community and is rated as one of the top 15 small business corporate philanthropists in Portland. For many years, Venerable donated time and money annually to employee-selected organizations focusing on historic preservation and non-profit groups who work to improve livability in Oregon. In 2008, Venerable pioneered with the University of Oregon to establish the McMath Awards, which annually honors Metro-area historic preservationists. All proceeds benefit the University of Oregon’s Historic Preservation Program.
Art is an activist in the preservation community expounding the benefits of building rehabilitation and sustainable preservation. He uses such forums as local publications editorials, many speaking appearances and participation in preservation organizations at all jurisdictional levels. Staff is encouraged to participate in teaching and lecturing in the University’s Historic Preservation Program in the Architecture and Allied Arts (AAA) Department. Art is a member of the AAA’s Board of Visitors as well as the National Trust of Historic Preservation, Bosco Milligan Foundation (BMF) and Historic Preservation League of Oregon (HPLO). Venerable offers substantial financial support to HPLO and BMF through gifts of money and office space to BMF and HPLO.
In addition, Art is completing the longest tenure ever on the Portland Historic Landmarks Commission of ten years and has been chairman for the last three years. He was appointed by city officials to numerous advisory committees focused on preservation and planning. In 2003 and 2004, he rallied the community through presentations and speeches to neighborhood groups and business organizations to ensure the City Council’s passage of the Historic Resources Code Amendment (HRCA). Adopted in 2004, the HRCA is a package of zoning and building code amendments to strengthen the city’s historic preservation programs and regulations including restrictions against demolishing historic buildings.
Dedicated to improving Oregon’s livability, over the last 20 years Venerable’s redevelopment projects have created hundreds of new jobs in all corners of Portland including the following neighborhoods: Northwest District, Pearl District, Japantown/Chinatown, Skidmore/Old Town, West End, Buckman, Central Eastside, Irvington, King, Sellwood/Moreland and the Burnside Retail core in Gresham. Catalytic redevelopments have even extended all the way to the Oregon Coast to include development projects in Astoria.
Historic preservation is a cornerstone of sustainability. Older buildings were designed with sustainable features such as natural lighting and ventilation, durable materials, timeless design and thoughtful site orientation and were built for durability, not disposability. Venerable has proven that with quality upgrades, these buildings will continue to be viable structures for generations to come. Venerable’s philosophy is to employ green building strategies without major intrusions into historic fabric. We repair rather than replace, which leads to the reduction of construction waste. We found from experience with White Stag Block’s LEED Gold certification that it is a myth that the Secretary’s Standards for Historic Rehabilitation conflict with green building guidelines–proving that preserving and adapting historic buildings for reuse is profitable as well as environmentally sound.