‘Multicultural Community Center’ supporters consider using shuttered Marshall High space

See why one neighborhood association leader has long-term concerns about this otherwise noble idea …

About two dozen folks head in Marshall High School, to see if is suitable to become a temporary East Portland Multicultural Community Center.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
A diverse group of community members representing many interests converged on the campus of disused Marshall High School in the Lents Neighborhood on November 11 and filed in through the front doors.

“Today, we have a group called the ‘East Portland Arts Collective’, which is an off shoot of the East Portland Action Plan, touring the campus,” Tomi Douglas Anderson with Mayor Sam Adams’ office told East Portland News.

Tomi Douglas Anderson with Mayor Sam Adams’ office talks with East Portland Action Plan Advocate Lore Wintergreen in the Marshall Lobby.

“We have been working on an Arts and Culture Center plan for East Portland,” Anderson went on. “Today, due to a lot of community support, and the fact that it’s been in the East Portland Action Plan to create a Multicultural Community Center [Community Building 4.4], we’re seeing if some of some of the areas can be put to use.”

A few rooms in the school are used by organizations, she said. “The fact that has a lot of multiuse areas is great. There is already an auditorium, cafeteria, and rooms – there could be all kinds of programming that uses this kind of infrastructure.”

Ronault LS “Polo” Catalani, City of Portland Office of Equity and Human Rights speaks with one of the many participants invited to the tour.

The space would only a temporary home for the Multicultural Community Center, Anderson noted, because Franklin High School students will move to the campus while their school is being rebuilt.

“We’ve got three or four years of this beautiful building, in great shape, empty,” Anderson said. “The community has been crying out for a place to come together. We’re here to see if we can create a pilot project in here, and see what happens.”

Participants gather in Marshall High Theater for a briefing session.

“I need to know more about the proposal before I can bring anything back to the neighborhood association,” said Lents Neighborhood Association President Nick Christensen, who took in part of the tour during his lunch break.

“The idea of a Multicultural Community Center in East Portland is vital, and is great for our community and our city – it’s something that needs to happen.”

Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association Board Member Debby Smith talks with Lents Neighborhood Association President Nick Christensen.

That being said, Christensen continued, “My concern is that it leads down the path that Marshall High be branded as something other than a high school. I think the people of the Lents Neighborhood want to see Marshall reopened as a comprehensive high school, as it once was, and again be a hub for people living east of SE 82nd Avenue.”

It could be a viable “temporary solution” for keeping the building in use, Christensen commented. But, I do want it to get in the way of the larger discussion – that is, that Marshall be open as a comprehensive high school, for the sake of equity, in our part of the city.”

Gretchen Hollands, with Facilities & Asset Management at Portland Public Schools, leads a tour through Marshall High School.

“These are just baby steps,” Anderson told the group as the gathered in the school’s theater. “It may be only a two-year home, but could establish the need for this community asset, and will help in developing a more long-term solution.”

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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