Meet the Portland Loo, a 24/7 modular bathroom coming to downtown

After delaying the vote slated for January, Asheville City Council approved a 24/7 restroom to be constructed at the corner of College Street and Rankin Ave.

The view of the Portland Loo on a city street. The sleek, modular restroom has a door handle featuring a picture of a rose. One of the side panel has a restroom sign.

Picture this modular restroom in downtown Asheville.

Photo via Portland Loo

A 24/7 bathroom is coming to downtown. At its Tuesday, Feb. 13 meeting, Asheville City Council voted 5-1 to authorize the purchase and installation of a Portland Loo — a modular, stand-alone, free toilet that lies somewhere between your traditional public restroom and a porta-potty. The restroom will be located in the pocket park at the corner of College Street and Rankin Avenue, replacing the porta-potty that has been sitting in the space since 2020.

What’s new about this loo?

  • Cleanliness | The coating of the bathrooms makes them particularly easy to clean.
  • Price | While installation can be on the pricier side, the loo utilizes common components that are typically easy and inexpensive to replace.
  • Aesthetic | The stainless steel paneling of the bathrooms features graffiti-proof coating and a simple, sleek design.
  • Safety | The bathroom was specifically designed for safety, with angled louvers (slats) in the walls to maintain the occupant’s privacy.
  • Durability | The fixtures are meant to be durable. If they need to be replaced, they’re sourced from Portland rather than abroad, making the repair process quicker.
  • Ease of use | Hand-washing stations are attached to the outside of the bathrooms, encouraging quick use to serve more bathroom-goers. Plus, each facility is ADA accessible.
The site plan for the downtown restroom, showing the placement of the Portland Loo outside the parking garage exit onto Rankin Avenue and site enhancements including updated landscaping and street lights.

Site plans include updated landscaping and street lights.

Photo via The City of Asheville

Bathroom budgeting

In May 2022, City Council approved $650,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds for the project. At the Feb. 13 meeting, cost analysis presented by Capital Projects Director Jade Dundas showed that in the long run, the Portland Loo would be cheaper than 24/7 operation of an existing facility. Here’s how the budgeting breaks down:

  • A $183,620 contract with a contingency amount of $46,724 was authorized with B. Allen Construction, Inc. for the installation of the restroom and improvements to the pocket park, including updated landscaping + street lights.
  • A $170,760 contract was authorized to purchase the Portland Loo.
  • The restroom will cost $504,604 in first-year operating costs (including sunk costs related to design + staff time) and comes with a price tag of $22,500 each year for cleaning and repairs.

Construction of the downtown bathroom is expected to begin in the spring.