Gateway neighbors make ‘wish list’ for new public park

While it could be some time before it comes to fruition, see why folks in the Hazelwood Neighborhood came to the vacant ‘JJ North’s lot’ to express their hopes and dreams for a real city park to call their own …

Hazelwood neighbors and Gateway area business people look over proposed designs for the proposed Gateway Redevelopment and Neighborhood Park Project at an open-air open house held at the site on NE Halsey Avenue.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
City blocks of land in the Gateway Urban Renewal District – on which JJ North’s Grand Buffet once stood at 10520 NE Halsey, as well as the old bowling alley/bingo hall south of it – have stood vacant for well over a year now.

But, according to Portland Development Commission (PDC) officials, part of that property may someday be turned into a multi-use City Park.

“The project is named the Gateway Redevelopment and Neighborhood Park Project,” PDC’s senior project manager, Justin Douglas, told us in late June at an open-air open house held on the property.

The PDC’s Justin Douglas listens to neighbor Ronald Trogman express his hopes for park development. “I’ve lived in the area for 30 years,” Trogman says. “I’ve been looking at this eyesore mess for many years; I hope something attractive will be built here that improves our community.”

“What’s planned here are a three-acre park, and an acre of [commercial and/or residential] development, here in the middle of the Gateway District,” Douglas continued. “I’m working on this project with Kip Roddin from Portland Parks & Recreation, because Gateway is a parks-deficient area. There are not any parks in the Gateway Regional Center Urban Renewal Area. Acquiring land for a park here has been a priority for the City for a long time.”

Douglas said the PDC purchased the land at the end of 2008. “We saw a remarkable opportunity both to put in a park for the neighborhood, and also to bring in some commercial redevelopment we feel is key, here along NE Halsey Street. We don’t know what the redevelopment will be, right now, but we hope it is something that brings jobs, activity, and new life to the Gateway community.”

At this, their first of three planned open houses over the course of a year, Douglas said they wanted people to be on-site to “get a feel for what it’s like”, as they begin to make plans.

Hazelwood Neighborhood Association’s President, Arlene Kimura, says she hopes for an actual developed park – not just another vacant field.

Arlene Kimura, Hazelwood Neighborhood Association’s President, bemoaned the lack of developed parks in the area. “The parks we have are just empty lots with dirt and grass; not suitable for events and recreation. We’re hoping they’ll develop this land as a park that will become a good place recreation, and become an event venue.”

About the plans put forward, Kimura said she she’s “pleasantly surprised” at what is being proposed. “We’d like the park to be visible from NE Halsey Street. We’re hoping that, with input from the community, we’ll have park amenities that will attract, in particular, families with young kids. Maybe someday we can have music in the Gateway Park.”

Adjoining neighborhood chair presents wish list
Alicia Reece, Chair of the Woodland Park Neighborhood Association – it’s directly to the west of Hazelwood – said she’s hopeful the park will be developed thoughtfully.

“This would be the first City park within walking distance of our neighborhood,” Reese pointed out. “That’s why we’re very excited about this idea, and can hardly wait for the park to be developed.”

We asked Reece about the feedback she was leaving for the project managers. “One thing that I haven’t seen – I would love to have electricity there, so we would be able to host music and other community events at the park. Also, lighting will provide a little bit of security in the park. I’d like to see a gazebo, or an area for tables and tents.”

About the commercial development, Reece opined, “I would like to see a coffee shop and a bookstore.”

Bailey, Rebekah, Carol, and Hannah enjoy some ice cream, complements of the PDC at the open house, while filling in their surveys.

Unfunded project makes completion timeline uncertain
“Now that the restaurant and old bingo/bowling alley have been taken down,” Douglas commented, “it will be turned into a big grassy area. We will be done with design work by November or December; it’ll be based on a design that the community supports and wants to see built.”

One sticking point, Douglas conceded, is money. “We still have to figure out how we’re going to pay for it. The Parks Bureau and PDC do not currently have funding to actually build this. So, that is our next hurdle. Once we have a plan for the park, it’ll really help set the wheels in motion to get the funding for it.”

Look for the next open houses to be in September, and then in November – we’ll post them in our Community Calendar when we get word.

Plot of Dreams: Neighbors hope that part of this vacant lot in Gateway will be developed into a fully-featured City park – sooner, rather than later.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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