Find out why these projects were chosen, even though outer East Portland parks advocates preferred a different site for improvement …
Portland Mayor Charlie Hales is welcomed by Gateway Area Business Association “Keystone Kops”.
Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Members of the Portland City Council, except Commissioner Dan Saltzman who was fighting off pneumonia, traveled to the Hazelwood neighborhood on the afternoon of January 30 to announce that Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) was about to embark on a building project.
“Actually, we will be building two parks,” Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz exclaimed, as a crowd of neighbors and officials gathered around a tent pitched near the former location of JJ North’s Chuckwagon Restaurant and of a bowling alley on NE Halsey Street at between NE 104th & 106th Avenues.
“Starting in 2016, we will begin building Gateway Plaza Park at this location. And also, the Beech Park near Shaver Elementary School in Parkrose,” Fritz told East Portland News.
Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz and past Parks Commissioner Nick Fish tease, lifting the cloth that covers the sign announcing a new park being built in the Gateway district.
Last September, Commissioner Fritz visited the East Portland Parks Coalition meeting, asking neighbors to rank potential projects. [CLICK HERE to see that story.]
Under discussion were park-building projects that already had a completed the “Master Plan” process including, in alphabetical order: Beech Park in Parkrose; Clatsop Butte Park in Pleasant Valley; Gateway Urban Plaza Property in Hazelwood; and Parklane Park, located in the Centennial neighborhood.
Project selection criteria revealed
Asked why the Gateway and Beech projects were selected, when members of the committee had actually voted for Parklane Park, Fritz said the decision was made taking into account three waiting criteria:
- Go from “None to Done” – “We were looking for projects where the complete project could be done at one time, not in phases,” Fritz said.
- Most Households Served – “We look at which parks would serve the most households, giving them a park to which they could walk, that currently doesn’t have developed parks.”
- Partnerships – “The third factor was seeing where we could get partnerships,” Fritz explained. “Gateway Plaza Park has a $1 million partnership with the Portland Development Commission (PDC). Beech Park has a partnership with Shaver Elementary and the Parkrose School District.”
A crowd of officials and neighbors gather under the tent, pitched at the former JJ North’s Chuckwagon Restaurant’s site.
Asked if she thought that neighbors in Centennial Community Association would be disappointed, Fritz said, “I’m disappointed about that also. I’m the mother of three, and it’s like only having enough money to buy shoes for one child. Outer East Portlanders have waited far too long for far too many parks.
“These will not be the last,” Fritz vowed. “We’ll be looking, sometime in the future, to have a bond measure. If I have anything to do with it – because I may not be Parks Commissioner by the time that happens – I will be strongly advocating completing Parklane Park in the next [bond] measure.”
Portland’s Park Commissioner, Amanda Fritz, tells how the park construction projects are funded.
Construction funds park creation
Beech and Gateway parks will be built using System Development Charges (SDC) – a tax on construction projects established to bolster infrastructure in the area in which a project – residential or commercial is being built, Fritz explained.
“We had very little SDC funds come in over the course of the recession. Now we have more construction money coming in, about $8 million. With little funding coming in, the City held these funds over the last several years. But in the previous budget [cycle] Mayor Hales and Commissioner Fish funded a planner position, to help design the new parks.”
Neighbors chime in about park
East Portland Parks Coalition Chair Alesia Reese, who is also Chair of the nearby Woodland Park Neighborhood Association, was all smiles as she came up to the area.
“I walked here today from my home – it took five minutes,” Reese said. “I walked here in five minutes. When Gateway Plaza Park is built, for the first time, I’m within the standards of ‘walkable park’. I am ecstatic about this.”
About the park’s design, Reese commented, “This will be a new kind of park, like Portland has never before seen. It will encompass an urban setting; a healthy, active lifestyle; and it will be an opportunity for all the people of the outer East Portland. This new park will be especially attractive for people that are not used to visiting City parks.”
Longtime parks advocate, and Hazelwood resident, Linda Robinson said she’s pleased to have this new park coming to the neighborhood. “It’s also important to the Gateway Renewal process.
“Actually, it’s a ‘three neighborhood park’, Robinson pointed out. It’s also on the border of Parkrose Heights, and also Woodland Park. People from all three neighborhoods have volunteered at events we’ve held here.”
Commissioners Fritz and Fish finally reveal the sign that discloses the park to be built on the Gateway site.
Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish was grinning from ear to ear as he said he characterized the announcement. “It’s a happy day!”
The former Parks Commissioner said he was proud to have made a ‘down payment’ for improving outer East Portland parks with the E-205 Initiative in past years.
“We made some small-scale improvements,” Fish said. “But this was all in anticipation of this day, when we have enough money to build out at least two parks.”
There’s no one more happy that he, says PP&R Director Mike Abbaté, about these new outer East Portland parks being built.
PP&R Director Mike Abbaté kicked off the formal event, saying “Folks here have been waiting a very long time for this.
“The acquisition of this [Gateway Plaza] parcel owes a debt to Commissioner Fish and Portland Development Commission, as well as the entire City Council, who said we needed to get this parcel,” Abbaté continued. “Some people called it the ‘boomerang parcel’, because it was ‘in and out’ of consideration many times.”
He’ll make sure that commercial development at the site will be compatible with the new park, assures Mayor Charlie Hales.
Portland Mayor Charlie Hales pointed out that the PDC is slated to develop a commercial complex, “Gateway Plaza”, adjacent to the park.
“One thing we will do,” Hales promised, “is make sure that the development that surrounds the new park will be compatible with this space. I’ll be working directly with the Portland Development Commission as we proceed to develop this area.”
As Commissioner Fritz and Fish unveiled the sign to stand at the Gateway area park, Fritz proclaimed, “For far too long, there have not been ‘improved gathering spaces’ in outer East Portland. Today we’re starting to fix this.”
PP&R Director Mike Abbaté and Parks Director Amanda Fritz reveal the sign proclaiming that Beech Park construction will soon commence.
Parks Director Amanda Fritz and PP&R Rangers “deputize” Shaver Elementary School kids. PP&R photo
From the Gateway area, officials and interested folks caravanned east to Shaver Elementary School, where Fritz shared the good news of a park being built next to the school.
This as an adopted Master Plan for Gateway Park & Plaza. PP&R illustration
About Gateway Park & Plaza:
- The four-acre park will become a “living room” for the Gateway neighborhood, featuring accessible spaces and activities for all ages, including a plaza ready to accommodate a variety of events, festivals, and farmers’ markets.
- The park will serve more than 800 new households which currently do not have ready access to a park.
- The $4.7 million project is scheduled to be underway in early 2016
The Master Plan for Beech Park will eventually be built out with these amenities. PP&R illustration
About Beech Park:
- It will feature grand views, a sports field and basketball court, accessible play and picnic areas, shelters, pedestrian and bike paths, parking, community gardens, and a fenced off-leash dog area.
- The park will serve nearly 965 new households which currently do not have ready access to a park.
- The project is estimated to cost $7.7 million, funded by SDC fees.
To learn more about developing City parks, see the PP&R webpage, “Planning for Future Capital Improvement Projects”: CLICK HERE.
© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News