“We Needed to Create a Distinction Between What Was Old and What Was New”

The Benson Portland completes multimillion-dollar renovation.

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The Benson Portland has completed a multimillion-dollar renovation of its 287-room property at 309 SW Broadway in downtown Portland. Architecture and interior design were completed by Seattle-based company GGLO, building was finished by R&H Construction, the structural work was done by DCI Engineers, and lighting design by Studio Lux.

The design process started in 2015 with a master plan of the historic hotel. The team began by collecting input and needs from stakeholders and hotel operators. In 2021, the Benson went through a conversion to the Hilton Curio Collection, and at that time, renovation designs for the meeting rooms, ballrooms, fitness area, lobby, and restaurant were ushered in.

“We needed to create a distinction between what was old and what was new in a way that celebrated the history and delivered a more modern experience,” Meaghan McDonald, principal at GGLO, tells Oregon Business. “We peeled back layers of additive decoration that were focused on mimicking the original design, but over the years, had cluttered and muted the historic interior. We wanted to showcase the original materials and architecture but create a more modern aesthetic overlay. We felt this would tell a more cohesive story while the functional upgrades to the hotel created a more elevated experience for the public and returning guests. Downtown Portland has been anchored by the Benson hotel since 1913, but we wanted to bring back local traffic to the space, by giving it some well-deserved attention.”

The hotel features original Italian marble floors, Austrian crystal chandeliers, and the largest collection of Circassian walnut within one building. Contemporary furniture was added through the lobby, featuring pieces from B&B Italia. The newly expanded 1,500 square feet fitness and yoga suite was stripped down to the studs. A new glass wall highlights the original crystal light fixtures and backlit, arched mirrors and tailored casework creates a more boutique approach to guest wellness.

Each of the newly refined meeting and event spaces pay tribute to the hotel’s legacy and its builder, philanthropist Simon Benson. The Mayfair Ballroom, and its pre-function area, features new technology, lighting and finishes throughout. Custom chandeliers, designed to mirror the historic fixtures of the lobby and built by Los Angeles–based Lusive Décor, are a focal point. Over 150 crystal ceiling fixtures were also repurposed from the hotel’s original guest room corridors to create dramatic shimmering light, bringing sophistication to the 5,800-square-foot ballroom. For the hotel’s guest rooms and suites, new 55” flat-panel televisions were added, and a new state-of-the-art Wi-Fi system was installed. 

The Benson Portland was built in 1912 as the New Oregon hotel. Colloquially known as The Benson, the hotel is managed by Coast Hospitality and is part of Curio Collection by Hilton, a global portfolio of hotels and resorts in more than 30 countries.  

In addition, The Benson Portland and Fire & Vine Hospitality recently announced a partnership to provide culinary services by El Gaucho Portland to the Palm Court lobby restaurant at the hotel.

“It has been a tough road for many metro regions across the country in bringing back the energy and excitement to their downtown cores, especially as hybrid and virtual work sets in for many professionals,” says Jason Brandt, president & CEO of Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association. “We have thousands of people who are no longer in downtown five days a week and these market forces are having a significant impact on hospitality business models. The Benson’s investment is a shining bright light. They’re sending a message that they are committed to Portland and will continue to invest in the community they love. Their willingness to stand tall and make considerable investments in their property is noteworthy and should be celebrated by all those who share a deep love for Portland and for Oregon.”

Mark Goeman, managing director of The Benson Portland, says guest response has been overwhelmingly positive, and guest referrals have also increased significantly post-renovation.

“The Benson Portland takes pride in providing our guests with authentic and memorable travel experiences through distinctly local offerings and unexpected amenities,” he says. “These renovations demonstrate our commitment to guest satisfaction and alignment with the standards of this upscale, one-of-a-kind hotel brand. With our new affiliation as a Curio Collection by Hilton, accompanied with our extensive renovation, The Benson is uniquely positioned to lead the Portland Central Business District hotels in 2023 and beyond.”