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A Place for People: The Arleta Triangle Project
What exactly is the difference between a space and a place? Some would say nothing, that they are the same thing. Others would say that a place is where you take your kids out on a Saturday morning to play in the sunshine while you relax in the grass and enjoy the trees, birds and tranquility. Similarly, a place can be a neighborhood block where you know people by their first name, and you can count on them to help you out if you’ve got car trouble, a leaky roof, or need a companion for a rainy day cup of tea. In an era of increasing urbanization, big box franchises and multiplex shopping centers, it can be hard to feel like you belong to a community, where you are not a stranger. The Arleta Triangle Project on SE 72nd and SE Woodstock, is a project that builds community and character in the neighborhood. Let’s go back and take a look at the history.
Cleaning Up and Creating Community: Neighborhood Cleanups
On a sunny Spring morning in Southeast Portland’s Richmond Neighborhood, a church parking lot is filled with people. Some pack dumpsters designated for wood and metal scraps. Others carefully haul pickups filled to the brim with old furniture, kitchen appliances, and yard debris, and wait to be directed to unload their items. Volunteers clad in orange vests greet these visitors, and wave them to the correct drop off site. A few people can be seen lingering in the shade, having stopped to chat and have a drink of lemonade at the refreshment stand between hauling loads. One may wonder what brings all of these people out on a weekend morning, sorting through old things?
A Very Special Gathering Place: The Woodstock Community Center
On a balmy May morning in the Woodstock Neighborhood in Southeast Portland, people walk to the Woodstock Community Center for its annual Plant Sale. They stop in front of the 1920s era firehouse building and look at many varieties of native plants, shrubs and herbs. Some step inside the center to sample juice and sandwiches provided by local businesses. Volunteers from the Woodstock neighborhood greet the visitors and answer any questions on plant care that they may have. People linger by the booth outside that displays Woodstock neighborhood T-shirts, buttons and reusable canvas grocery bags. After talking with neighbors for a while, visitors walk back to their homes, their arms full of plants and smiles on their faces. They have gotten some neat plants and gotten a chance to meet some of their neighbors, all in the same place.
Local Group Curbs Big Box Development at Burnside Bridgehead
If one walks over to the intersection at MLK Jr. Blvd and NE Couch today, there can be seen an empty, grassy lot roughly half the size of a football field. On the south side of the lot, the Burnside Bridge crosses the Willamette River and provides an excellent view of the city. On the Eastside, there are many small businesses, encircled by residential areas. The Burnside Bridge is one of the main East-West crossings for pedestrians and cyclists, and a place most Portlanders take pride in. Looking westward from MLK Jr. Blvd, one sees a collection of Portland icons: the shining pink tower of the U.S. Bank Tower, the famous “Made In Oregon” sign at the Westside head of the Burnside Bridge, the majestic curves of the West Hills. It is hard to imagine a Home Depot in the midst of this scene, yet this would have been the case if it weren’t for a group of dedicated neighborhood activists.
The Making of a Park
As we were driving to Hazeltine Park on a winter afternoon, Dick Hazeltine, 71, life-long resident of Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood, pointed out the house where he was born, which is about 3 blocks from the park. Dick really enjoys living in Portland, and wouldn't live anywhere else. We got out of the car and took a look at the green meadow of Hazeltine Park, and the view of the sunset and the West Hills. He looked at me and then at the park. "I have always been persistent," he says. "This park has been a result of persistence." Indeed, it was steady commitment over a period of time that helped Brentwood-Darlington Neighborhood Association (BDNA) found a park on a site that was previously an abandoned lot covered with trash, and had housed a former Portland Community Policing Center. In 1999, Dick wanted to improve the abandoned lot then owned by Multnomah County, so that it wouldn't attract any more crime or debris. Dick was moved to take action. "I wanted it to be a public green space for all ages."
Ed Kerns and the Springwater Corridor
For Ed Kerns, Lents Neighborhood is familiar stomping ground. He was raised in Lents, near the Springwater Corridor, when the area was a lot more rural. Now a resident of the Sunnyside neighborhood in Southeast Portland, Ed remembers Lents in the old days: “When I grew up there it was a lot different,” he says. “This was before I-205 went through, and the Springwater Corridor was a functioning railroad. I grew up near the Springwater Corridor and we caught steelhead and cutthroat right out of Johnson Creek.” Such memories inspired Kerns to get involved in restoring the Corridor’s natural habitat a little over a decade ago. Johnson Creek runs westward 25 miles through the Lents, Brentwood-Darlington, Woodstock, Eastmoreland, Ardenwald and Sellwood Moreland neighborhoods. Many homes border the creek, and many residents enjoy seeing native birds and native habitat near its waters.
Tabor Commons: Doing Something About IT
“There was always a strange feeling about the place,” says Paul Leistner, who can see the small white building at SE 57th and Divison St., formerly known as the “Drive Thru Wake Up Deli,” from his kitchen window. The previous owner of the property, Adnan Fares, got off on the wrong foot with the community when he opened his coffee shop/mini mart in 1999 across the street from Atkinson Elementary School and Franklin High School. Mr. Fares immediately began to display large cigarette advertisements in his windows and refused to take them down when asked to do so by concerned parents. Mr. Fares compounded the problems by applying for a liquor license and stating his intention to install video poker machines. Portland Police subsequently caught Mr. Fares twice selling cigarettes to minors in police sting operations.