Placemaking is hard to define, but it is creative and community-driven. It brings people together to shape their surroundings and helps communities create the change they want to see in their neighborhood, according to Metro, which is offering grants of $5,000 to $25,000 for that purpose.

This was just what it took to spur the 82nd Avenue Improvement Coalition into action. The group, otherwise known as 82AIC, meets monthly at The Lumberyard Bike Park, across the street from Madison High School. On May 23, it heard a short report from city planner and 82nd Avenue Study project manager Radcliffe Dacanay, and then the 15 people in attendance, many of whom were community activists affiliated with other groups as well as 82AIC, began brainstorming.

Ten proposals came of the effort and were then voted on. The limited budget was the main creative stumbling block. (An arch was a popular idea, but not for $25,000.) In the end, a local business fair with entertainment proved to be the most popular suggestion, with seven votes. Second place was shared by three ideas: creating a gathering space in Glenhaven Park, enhancing the divider at the 82nd Avenue MAX station and making a “parklet” in the parking lot of either the Fred Meyer, Big Lots or Harbor Freight on Foster Road.

The next step, according to 82AIC organizer Brian Wong, will be to receive feedback from the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Portland Bureau of Transportation, since projects in public spaces require the support of the local jurisdiction. Then the question will be taken to the community.

Wong, a nurse-instructor for Providence Hospital, is the driving force behind 82AIC. He lives with his family in the Montavilla neighborhood and began the group in a push for the jurisdictional transfer of 82nd Avenue from the state (since it is also state Highway 213) to the city of Portland. After existing informally for a few years, the group began meeting regularly two years ago. In the meantime, Wong’s goal has changed. If the avenue cannot be transferred to the city, he reasoned, it should at least “function like a city street.” The change will be incremental, he believes, which is why the placemaking project appeals to him. “Let’s talk about now,” he said.

Wong is nothing if not persistent. He came close to organizing a meeting with the mayor and city council members to discuss 82nd Avenue. That meeting was cancelled because of scheduling conflicts (of which there were many before a date was tentatively set), but he continues to work on making that event happen.

Metro allocated $100,000 to placemaking initiatives already this year. There will be another round of applications in the fall, which is 82AIC’s target. Projects are expected to have a community base. They can be public-private partnerships, and unincorporated groups need a fiscal sponsor that is either a state-certified, federally approved 501(c) nonprofit or a municipal entity.

More information and application instructions can be found at 82AIC meets monthly at The Lumberyard. The next meeting is Monday, June 19 at 7 p.m.