Town Center monuments dedicated in Lents

Find out why officials say these markers are an important step in the development of Lents Town Center …

By day and by night, these monuments – both east and west of Lents Town Center on SE Foster Road – mark its location for both locals and visitors.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Because it happened on a relatively quiet and overcast Sunday morning, the gathering of City of Portland officials, politicians, and community members, didn’t get much notice. They’d gathered on July 28 to celebrate the Lents Town Center Streetscape improvements.

“Urban renewal” has been a long-time effort in the area, commented Lents Neighborhood Association Chair Nick Christiansen, before the official speeches began.

“But this streetscape improvement project is a huge part of the puzzle in Lents Town Center, because it shows prospective business owners that Lents is ‘open for business’,” Christiansen told East Portland News.

These new point-of-entry monuments and streetscapes show that “you are in a special place’’ in outer East Portland, says Lents Neighborhood Association Chair Nick Christiansen.

“This shows that the City has not forsaken the neighborhood, and is willing to invest in – and is betting on – its future success. They believe this is a project that will help create interest, and pay back dividends over time. I’m confident that this project is going to help turn Lents around,” Christiansen grinned.

That being said, he added, it’s also up to Lents residents to shop locally, and to participate in the neighborhood, and in its organization: “To match the energy and the investment that the Portland Development Commission is putting in here.”

Portland Development Commission Executive Director Patrick Quinton gathers guests for speeches – which were, unfortunately, not heard by many, because of a nonfunctioning PA system – before the ribbon cutting.

Standing at the corner of SE 91st Avenue and SE Foster Road, Portland Development Commission Executive Director Patrick Quinton prepared to address the group that had assembled.

“We are celebrating the dedication of the new Lents streetscape and entry ways,” Quinton told East Portland News. “It is been a multiyear process to redo much of the sidewalks and streetscapes. We think it creates a more distinctive feel for the area. We are excited.”

With babe in arms, Zenger Farm Executive Director Jill Kuehler listens while the PDC’s Director Patrick Quinton speaks.

Their long-term goal is to gain investment in, and development for, this – one of Portland’s oldest eastern neighborhoods – Quinton added.

“We still have some work to do, but we think this is a positive step forward, and there’s a lot of interest for businesses to be here as well. As we come out of the recession, we’re seeing renewed interest in areas like the Lents neighborhood.”

Creating more outer East Portland “walkable spaces” is important to him, says Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick.

As for Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick, he told East Portland News he was there to celebrate “walkable spaces. All great cities have great places to walk.  New York, Paris, a lot of Washington DC. And, what makes much of Portland a great city is that we have great places to walk.

“But, in the outer east side, we do not always have great places to walk,” Novick admitted. “The City owes people of outer East Portland – Lents, and other neighborhoods – places to walk. We’ve got a long way to go, but this is a ‘down payment’ on that commitment.”

Representative Jeff Reardon gives City Commissioner Steve Novick a hand, as they struggle to snip the tougher-than-expected ceremonial ribbon

but eventually they triumph, and the ribbon is official severed.

Also on hand was Oregon Representative of District 48 Happy Valley Jeff  Reardon (D). “I am so excited that Lents is finally getting the basic infrastructure needed. Now we can start growing it, and can start getting more businesses out here.”

The investment, Reardon opined, is “about getting this neighborhood to really take off. So many people have worked so long to get this going. It seems like we are in a ‘rebirth spot’ in our history, here in this area, close to where I live.”

Take notice when you next drive through the area. The new monument ts are especially colorful in the evening hours, when lit.

Those on hand for the dedication gather for a group photo.

© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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