Gateway is about to receive a facelift with a little help from their friends at Prosper Portland. A partnership between Friends of Gateway Green and Propel Studio—a community-oriented architecture and design firm—has been formed. Their team objective: to undertake an upcoming branding and wayfinding initiative that will shake up Gateway’s image while marketing its finer assets. Prosper Portland had worked previously with Propel Studio on the Lents Storyboard project, so the firm is not necessarily a new player.
The plan is based on a $60,600 community livability grant that was approved in January 2016. It’s being paid for, at least in part, by Prosper Portland, from whom Friends of Gateway Green have received Certified Local Government funding status. Prosper Portland underwent its own major rebranding this past May when it shed its “Portland Development Commission” title.
The big idea is to provide Gateway with an identity. The method: dishing out an online survey that asks Gateway residents to respond to such abstract questions as, “What word best describes the Gateway district to you?” or “Which image below best describes Gateway?” For the latter, you can choose among such stock photos as a picture of Earth from outer space, a row of cherry blossom trees or a ribbon of highways reminiscent of Los Angeles.
If you want the world to see Gateway as an industrial powerhouse or a pastoral oasis, now is your chance to speak up.
“The timing is community-driven,” explains Anne Mangan, the senior communications director at Prosper Portland. “The Halsey Weidler Commercial District Investment Strategy came out in October 2014 and was the basis for street improvements to support business growth in the district. As the implementation of that work got under way, the community recognized the need for a positive identity for the area.”
While some contrarian Gateway residents might question the notion that Gateway possesses a “negative” identity now, they will be pleased to know that the campaign involves Linda Robinson, an avid, longtime community spokeswoman. Robinson was a tour de force behind the Gateway Green project and is presently the Chair of Friends of Gateway Green. She has served on the Hazelwood Neighborhood Association board for nearly 30 years and the public advisory committee for the Gateway Regional Center Urban Renewal area for its entire existence.
Robinson, in her volunteer positions, has taken it upon herself to help shape how many neighborhoods east of the I-205 Freeway have evolved since annexation of unincorporated Mid-Multnomah County to the city in the 1980s. Not only grammatically incorrect, “East Portland” has become synonymous with crime, poverty, homelessness and urban blight over the years.
Robinson’s intimate involvement with both the survey and the community will likely convince some otherwise skeptical local citizens and businesses owners who believe that Prosper Portland is somehow playing puppeteer from its downtown digs.
Robinson believes the desire for branding stems from the lack of signage in the area telling people how to find her Gateway Green. “As I worked on the Gateway Green project for more than a decade, I discovered that many people have a difficult time finding the Gateway Transit Center (GTC) and the I-205 Multi-Use Path,” Robinson said in an email. “I knew that if they couldn’t find those, they would also have a hard time finding Gateway Green once it was developed. At the same time, people were telling me that, when getting off MAX at the GTC, it was unclear which way to go to get to the commercial area. It was obvious better signage is needed to connect the Transit Center and MUP [Multi-Use Path] to the community.”
The survey is also meant to assess some of the points provided by the Gateway Action Plan, which was developed in 2016. The plan called for strategic investment in the Halsey-Weidler business district to provoke future private investment.
“Our vision for Gateway Regional Center is as a more urban, mixed-use environment with employment and commercial activity in east Portland that contributes to the region’s economy and livability,” says Mangan. “Once the survey is complete we expect that the community will hold an open house to show the results of logo and visual preferences, colors, taglines—essentially the responses to the survey—but those plans have not yet been specified.”
Take Propel Studio’s online survey yourself at propelgateway.com and let them know how you view Gateway at present.
No Internet accesses? Call the East Portland Neighborhood Office, 503-823-4550, to find out where you can obtain a survey.