Tackling the task of how to breathe both charm and safety into the business corridor stretching between Northeast 102nd and 112th avenues, online on Northeast Halsey and Weidler streets, the Halsey-Weidler work group met several times in September, tweaking their ideas for two grants they hope to receive.

Possible designs for trashcans along Halsey Street from Northeast 102nd to 112th if a grant the Halsey-Weidler work group submitted is approved.

Possible designs for trashcans along Halsey Street from Northeast 102nd to 112th if a grant the Halsey-Weidler work group submitted is approved.

One grant for $23,000 would add several benches and trashcans along the corridor. A second for $44,000 would fund a design process, including extensive outreach to ensure full community feedback, for the east triangle at Northeast 112th and Halsey Street.

Their diligence paid off: they met the grant application deadline on Sept. 26.

Part of the Portland Development Commission’s Community Livability Grant Program, the competitive grant money is available throughout the Gateway Regional Center URA. The amount available to applicants within that geographic region for fiscal year 2014-2015 is $75,000. The PDC will award the grant money some time in mid-December 2014, according to Tom Badrick, a member of the work group and chair of the Parkrose Heights Neighborhood Association, who volunteered to write both grants. The recipient group will then have one year, starting in January 2015, to implement the funding it receives.

The grant for the triangle design designates Nevue Ngan Associates, not only the landscape architecture firm that contracted with PDC last spring to design the corridor, but also the east triangle designer. Ben Ngan’s firm handles some of the public process outreach as well.

However, Badrick said the grant proposal also suggests other avenues of outreach, such as various groups that are offshoots of the city of Portland’s Office of Equity to garner ideas from the community as well as the East Portland Neighborhood Office’s community contacts.

Design of the triangle will be “really cool,” Badrick predicted, adding, “The part I care about is that we really reach out thoroughly to the whole community, including the ethnic communities.”

Possible designs for benches along Halsey Street from Northeast 102nd to 112th if a grant the Halsey-Weidler work group submitted is approved.

Possible designs for benches along Halsey Street from Northeast 102nd to 112th if a grant the Halsey-Weidler work group submitted is approved.

Badrick called “broadening the base” important in the public process so that “we’re not just doing some off the shelf outreach program that reaches the same twelve people. We’ve done that. In our neighborhoods out here we have a fairly significant diversity in ethnic groups and if we’re trying to be welcoming to them and include them in our community, we need to actually do it and not just do things the way we’ve always done it.”

At the working group’s Sept. 18 meeting, Christopher Masciocchi, a local graphic designer and member of the working group, presented a wide range of designs for trashcans and benches. “We’re exploring everything from custom, locally designed and fabricated fixtures to extremely durable-off-the-shelf type fixtures,” Masciocchi said after the meeting. “We would prefer to find something that is not only attractive and a good fit but also very, very durable.”

One of the trashcan designs that he presented at the meeting had a rain guard attached to the side of the receptacle. This design was appealing to some members of the group who have had vandals steal the top off their trashcans.

Nidal Kahl, one of the co-chairs of the working group, said the designs were pre-screened and narrowed “to fit our mid-century paradigm while still offering good, solid bases.”

Kahl said the group especially liked one trash receptacle that had “… a cast iron base; very durable, very heavy, permanent lids. You have concerns in some of these other districts; some of the homeless people will actually take the lids off and look for pop cans and things of that nature, so we want to eliminate that.”

Nidal explained that group members discussed choosing designs that matched the area’s demographics.

“There was discussion about making sure we don’t come off as sounding like prima donnas here, trying to be something that we’re not,” Kahl said. “Some of the benches and trash receptacles that were suggested were quite elaborate in their design. And so it’s just kind of like putting lipstick on a pig. We don’t want it to be too over the top, too elaborate. The change is not going to happen overnight. What we don’t want to do is throw something super fancy as the first phase, which equals expensive. We need to at least evaluate our lower dollar options and make sure that we’re frugal with the tax dollars and make them go as far as we can.”

Several businesses along the corridor have volunteered to “host” a new trashcan on their property. That would involve emptying a vinyl container that lines each can into the business’s own dumpster, which would be picked up by the garbage hauler.

“The business owners are essentially taking on a responsibility with the understanding that yes, we’ll be paying a little bit more for it, but it’s a minor investment relative to what we gain on the overall street appeal,” Kahl said.

Some of the businesses—most are members of the working group—that have committed to sponsoring a garbage can include McGillacuddy’s Sports Bar and Grill, Lily Market, Riverview Bank, Furniture Plus, VIP Property Management, Joseph’s Deli and Gateway Shoe Repair.

Some owners along the corridor doubted if the proposed location of trashcans would improve the area.

Brad Fouts, owner of Bradford’s Sports Bar on Halsey in the heart of the corridor, said, “Trashcans never work, especially in front of, like, a bar. It’s going to become a collecting point for homeless people. There are a lot better places to put it than right in front of businesses. They overflow. It’s just not a smart move.”

Fouts said he currently has placed an ashtray in front of his business because no smoking is allowed inside his bar.

“It ends up becoming a collecting point for all of the garbage from all of the transients who walk by and they hang around it,” Fouts said. “They’re constantly digging in it, trying to find cigarette butts or anything else they can have.”

He is required to place the ashtray “but a garbage can’s going to become even worse,” Fouts predicted.

His reaction to some of the corridor merchants’ plans to volunteer to empty the trashcans in front of the businesses into their own dumpsters was also negative. “Why would I provide the labor to dump trash from vagrants walking up and down the street into a dumpster that I pay the money for?” he asked. “It means I would have to increase the size of my dumpster because I utilize all the space in it. If the city wants to put a dumpster in, then let the city pay for their own dumpster.”

Currently, Fouts hires maintenance workers to use a blower to pick up the garbage in front of his business weekly or bi-weekly. “I don’t think I’ve seen a street sweeper come by here in a year or more,” he said.

Another problem with the trashcan plan in Fouts view is the limited number of parking spaces in front of his building. “If they put a trashcan there, a passenger won’t be able to open the car door,” he said, estimating the sidewalk is only four-and-a-half- or five-feet wide. “It’s a great plan to slow the traffic down on Halsey,” he said. “But what’s it going to do to the traffic that’s backed up all the way onto the freeway because they’ve slowed it down. It’ll be backed up clear down to the bridge, and it’ll be backed up to the freeway.”

Fouts had been thinking of expanding his business into another nearby space but changed his mind when he learned the street might be torn up for six months as part of the revitalization plan, which would further reduce the number of customers frequenting his business. Fouts predicted that the Gateway revitalization plan might hurt his business further, especially if the city locates more restaurants along the corridor that would compete with his business. “If they want to spend taxpayers’ money, they ought to bring industry into this area that actually creates jobs for people where they can spend it at the existing businesses,” Fouts said. “Don’t create more businesses where there’s nobody to support it.” When the work group met Sept. 18, they calculated a possible budget for the purchase of trashcans and benches to insert in the grant proposal. The group recommended spending no more than about $1,200 for each receptacle. Benches would cost no more than $2,400 each, plus or minus 20 percent, depending on the design.

The final proposal they submitted does not pinpoint a definite number of cans and benches because that number would depend on how much grant money the group is offered. “It’s more important that we pick a really good product and put it in a really good place than how many we get,” said Badrick. “There just isn’t any value for getting a bench and putting it somewhere where nobody will ever want to sit on it because it’s an unpleasant environment.”

All the bench designs that Masciocchi presented to the group for possible approval met the current Americans with Disabilities Act requirements that include a height of between 17 and 19 inches as well as including a back on benches for support. “There’s some indication that too far back can make it challenging for the person with disabilities to get up out of the bench or seat,” Masciocchi said. “Both of them can be provided with little arms, and the arms are helpful in helping people have something to grab on to and push themselves up with. I think we would always choose something that had some type of arm to help people get in and out.”

Although he presented designs for fixtures constructed of both metal and wood, the majority of work group members preferred the metal construction for phase one of the project.

Masciocchi noted that fixtures could be constructed of raw aluminum or powdered-coated metal.

The main idea from months of planning was to give the corridor “some sort of identity, a style or some artistic element that helps define the area,” Masciocchi said. “One way could be possibly to utilize graphics on the side, or it could be metal etchings.”