The Jupiter Hotel Is Ready for Its Next Act

For the past two years, the hotel had served as a quarantine space for COVID-positive people who were homeless. Now it's gotten a refresh and is ready for other hotel guests again.

By Michelle Harris June 16, 2022

A white-linened bed in a white-walled room, with artwork showing an image of a smiling Frank Sinatra in a hat above the bed

After two years as a COVID quarantine site, the Jupiter Hotel is getting a brand-new look.

Rockers and tourists alike will soon again have a place to call home during their stay in Portland. After a two-year hiatus, The Jupiter—the iconic hotel that helped spark the renaissance of lower Burnside Street—is reopening after a complete refurbishment. All 81 rooms now have brand-new carpeting, repainted walls, and new furniture. (Also gone are the popcorn ceilings, which have been replastered and painted for a sleek modern look.)

Now called Jupiter Original, the converted motor lodge opened in 2004 in what some might have called up-and-coming and others might have called a slightly seedy section of Portland’s Central Eastside Industrial District, breathing some new life into the long-neglected commercial strip. The Jupiter's relatively affordable, no-frills but still design-forward rooms sometimes doubled as art galleries or photo studios. 

The hotel’s much-loved live music spot, the Doug Fir Lounge, opened then, too; James Beard Award–winning chef Gabriel Rucker’s Le Pigeon followed in 2006, across from the ever-hip collective of fashion-forward stores at 811 E Burnside. Eventually the east end of the Burnside Bridge, once dominated by car dealerships, would be loomed over by a high-rise holding luxury condos and the Knot Springs spa.  

In March 2020, the pandemic forced the Jupiter to close to the public for no-one-knew-how-long. That was when the hotel’s co-owner Kelsey Bunker and general manager Nick Pearson heard that Multnomah County was looking for places to house COVID-positive people who were experiencing homelessness and who didn’t have a safe place to isolate. “We just looked at each other and went, OK, let’s make a phone call,” says Bunker. 

“It met an absolutely vital need for the community in Multnomah County,” says Marc Jolin, the former director of the Joint Office of Homeless Services, who is now the agency’s director of special projects. “We were looking for a hotel like Jupiter, where the rooms open to the outside, not the interior corridor, as a way to reduce COVID exposure. So, it made it safer for staff to support the people effectively who were on site.”  

From March 2020 to May 2022, more than 1,400 people who needed a place to sleep passed through the hotel, Jolin says. Before reopening to the public in 2022, Bunker decided to take advantage of the empty space and do a complete refurbishment. “We’ve been doing small remodels since we opened in 2004, but it was really time for a big update,” says Bunker. “It’s a top-to-bottom refresh.”  

A glam portrait of Marilyn Monroe in the ready-for-its-closeup Jupiter.

The hotel worked closely with Megan Millie Design for Jupiter Original’s revival, the same design firm used for Jupiter Next, the swankier sibling that opened next door in 2018. Jupiter Original remains true to its rock-and-roll roots, though, with brand-new murals in every room, like one of Marilyn Monroe that reads like a delightfully demented cross between Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock.

All are music-themed of course, featuring the likes of David Bowie, Frank Sinatra, and Nina Simone. Even the furniture seems a shout-out to the ’60s rock-and-roll era, with modern adaptations of midcentury-style couches and comfy, egg-shaped swivel chairs.  

Since Jupiter Original shares the property with the Doug Fir, the hotel has been a place where rockers kick back for the after (after?) party, though hotel managers won’t dish the dirt about any offstage behaviors. The basement concert venue is currently open for shows, but the full reopening of its restaurant and bar, which will feature an expanded menu, will coincide with the hotel’s reopening on July 15. The music lounge has also had its seating reupholstered for a fresher look, with all new cushions.  

As for other updates, the outdoor Dream Tent, a gathering space often used for weddings and events, will have new lighting and is undergoing a major cleanup for a more minimal look. And for every Portlander who, at some point or other, has become the owner of anything from misfortune cookies to mystery bags through the Venderia, a local vending machine business that stocks random items, that service will be available at Jupiter Original, because you just never know when you’ll need a semi-pornographic comic book in the middle of the night. 

“I think the biggest thing is that we just want to continue to respond to the community.,” Bunker says. “There’s a need for hotel rooms again and a place to have fun and let your hair down. And we’re just really happy that we can provide that.” 

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