The Portland City Council has approved the renovation of the Portland Building.

Completed in 1982, Michael Graves' design for the Porltand Building put the city on the architectural map. But shortcuts in the building process led to substantial structural problems with water and electrical systems.

Completed in 1982, Michael Graves’ design for the Porltand Building put the city on the architectural map. But shortcuts in the building process led to substantial structural problems with water and electrical systems.

April Baer/OPB

Architect Michael Graves’ downtown office tower houses thousands of city workers. The iconic building would be vulnerable in the event of an earthquake, and has other structural problems. Commissioners agreed the building needs attention.

Mayor Charlie Hales said he’s convinced the city cannot tear down the Portland Building and start fresh for less than the projected $195 million cost of renovation.

“This is a day we wish we didn’t have to be here for,” Hales said.

“We wish it was built so well the first time, and that it hadn’t leaked. I wish we didn’t have to do this, but we do. I think all of us in a situation like this say ‘there’s got to be a cheaper alternative than that.’ But it appears that’s not the case.”

The city expects to pay for the renovation by issuing bonds, and with some revenue from bureaus that use the Portland Building for their business.

Workers will have to be moved from the building during renovation. City officials say that relocation could account for as much as $30 million of the project’s cost.