Ground broken for new Gateway Discovery Park

Everyone seems happy this outer East Portland park is now under construction. But, some are questioning the housing development included along the edge of the park …

Next to this sign, long heralding the development of a new park to serve the Hazelwood, Woodland Hills, and Parkrose Heights neighborhoods of outer East Portland, groundbreaking for the new Gateway Discovery Park is underway.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

At long last, a planned new park is under construction in the Gateway area, at the site of what once was a bowling alley and JJ North’s Chuckwagon Restaurant – at NE 106th Avenue along Halsey Street.

“Getting to this point has been a long process,” remarked Hazelwood Neighborhood Association Chair Arlene Kimura, at the May 7 groundbreaking ceremony.

“I’m really glad that were going to get something built here, we desperately need it,” Kimura told East Portland News. “I thank everyone who worked so hard and so long to make this happen.”

With the heavy construction machinery already on the acerage as the backdrop, a throng of neighbors and officials gather to break ground for the new park.

“Called Gateway Discovery Park, the nearly four-acre park will become a ‘family room’ for the Gateway community,” smiled Portland Parks & Recreation Director Michael Abbaté.

“This is going to be a phenomenal new public place,” Abbaté went on. “It’s more than a neighborhood park – it also will feature a plaza for community gatherings, events, activities, and celebrations, for all of outer East Portland.

“As envisioned in the Master Plan, the park will also include flexible green spaces to accommodate picnic areas, accessible playground features, and a nature play area,” Abbaté said.

Here’s a recent rendering of the plans for Gateway Discovery Park. Courtesy PLACE Studios & PP&R

Speaking with a neighbor, Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz says she’s excited about the new park.

Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz said she was “very excited” that work is moving forward on the park.

“This has been a long time coming; for many here in the community, it’s a project that’s been over 15 years in the making,” Fritz said. “And now it’s going to happen; it’ll be done in little over a year.”

This park will have facilities for those of “all abilities”, says Harper’s Playground Executive Director G Cody QJ Goldberg.

During the remarks, Harper’s Playground Executive Director G Cody QJ Goldberg said the Gateway Discovery Park will be the site of Portland’s second inclusive, barrier-free playground.

“The park will be an incredible asset for the immediate neighborhood, as well as for the entire city,” Goldberg told the crowd gathered at the site.  “We look forward to playing alongside new friends of all abilities, once this special park is ‘open for business’.”

The park will add “a touch of heaven” to the community said longtime Gateway area booster Fred Sanchez of Realty Brokers.

Sanchez gave a “pop quiz” regarding the history of the area, and this property in particular. Quiz winners were awarded a rubber chicken keychain by members of the Gateway Keystone Kops.

Neighbors, business leaders, and officials dig in to break ground for Gateway Discovery Park.

Portland Development Commission Executive Director Patrick Quinton [who left the position on June 8] enthused about the park and development of the parcel. “We’re happy to work with the Parks Bureau to make this happen. We believe this park can have a significant impact to what’s going on in the Halsey/Weidler area.

“And, it is going to be partnered with a PDC project, right here on the street,” Quinton revealed. “We think it’s a great example of how the city Bureaus can work together to bring to catalytic projects to the neighborhood – an area that is ripe for development.”

Seen here at an East Portland Parks Coalition meeting, Linda Robinson says neighbors are concerned that the PDC building will consist of affordable housing, and new offices for nonprofit Human Solutions – instead of high-quality retail space.

Longtime Portland Parks advocate, and Hazelwood neighbor Linda Robinson later said she was glad the park’s design stayed intact – but questioned the PDC’s building affordable housing on their part of the site.

“Neighbors are not opposed to affordable housing in the Gateway Urban Renewal Area,” commented Robinson. “However, the project, as proposed, is the wrong project for this site.

Neighbors say they are disappointed with the development that will be on the edge of the new park. Courtesy PLACE Studios & PP&R

“Here’s why: the proposed project is not consistent with the plan the community agreed to in 2009; it’s not the quality ‘catalytic’ project promised by PDC; and it won’t generate the TIFF revenue PDC said it needed to have in order to cover the cost of purchasing the park property,” explained Robinson.

“In addition, there was absolutely no public engagement in the process, not even any notification, when they decided affordable housing should be built there,” Robinson added.

“We know the City needs more affordable housing; we know that more of it will be built in Gateway – but this particular project, as proposed, should not be built on this site,” Robinson said. Some affordable housing in the mix is okay, but not predominantly affordable housing.”

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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