Literary Arts, the Oregon nonprofit responsible for the Portland Book Festival, Portland Arts and Lectures, Oregon Book Awards, and Writers in the Schools programming for some 4,000 students annually, plans to move into a new headquarters in fall 2024.

In March 2022, the organization purchased a 1904 building at 716 SE Grand Avenue in the city’s industrial Central Eastside neighborhood, and is renovating the space in partnership with Bora Architecture and Interiors. This fall, Literary Arts will trade its 5,200-sq.-ft. downtown location for the 14,000-sq.-ft. facility, which is slated to include a bookstore with a 2,000-sq.-ft. selling floor, a café, classrooms and event spaces, and staff offices. Bookshelves in the store will be on casters, ensuring that they easily roll aside and provide seating for 75 visitors.

“This building will be transformational for Literary Arts,” executive director Andrew Proctor wrote in a statement. “Not only will it be one of the largest physical centers in the nation for literature and storytelling, but it will also stand as a love letter to this city that has been our home for four decades.” Literary Arts is celebrating its 40th year in Portland this year.

Proctor told PW that Literary Arts has grown a lot in those decades—"we've quadrupled in size"—and the leadership began talking before the pandemic about finding a bigger home. "We're an unusual organization in the range of services we offer," he said. "We already do a lot of presenting in our current space, with [open mic series] Slamlandia and all kinds of reading series for the writing community," so more spacious accommodations will enable community innovation. Literary Arts has also presented the Archive Project, "a radio show on Oregon Public Broadcasting for the past 10 years, and we've never had our own recording facilities," Proctor added. The new design includes studio space that's accessible for classes and workshops as well.

Amy Donohue, a Literary Arts board member and an architect with Bora, described the building as a “two-story gem, steeped in history with its exposed brick and original floors." She explained, “Throughout the design process, we’ve focused on how this building can best be used by not only staff at Literary Arts, but also those they serve," and how it can function as "a true cultural hub."

The completed building will represent a 170% increase in Literary Arts’ physical footprint, and the nonprofit appears primed to expand in other ways too. Presently, Literary Arts employs 15 full-time staff, and Proctor says that the new facility will require additional staffers, including bookstore and café managers, baristas and floor staff, and facilities management once fully operational.

"This building will anchor us in a permanent home, reduce our operational costs, and lower the overhead—we're doing this without any debt, and we'll own it outright," Proctor said. The acquisition of the space "is all about delivering on the mission" of Literary Arts and finding ways to serve the Portland community: "I want to be able to open the doors, welcome them in, and hear what they want to do with the space" in addition to existing programs, he said. "The city needs investment, and this is a huge investment in the core of the city and the creative life."