The view from outside. Photos by Ygal Kaufman

The view from outside.
Photos by Ygal Kaufman

As has been extensively reported in these pages, there are two new city parks under construction that have been in the works for nearly 10 and 55 years, respectively. Both are set to finally open to the public this fall, and Mid-county Memo got an exclusive tour of the Gateway Discovery and Luuwit View parks, as they’re now known.

Luuwit View: A half century in the making
The park was an early vision of the Argay Terrace developers, and the land was purchased in 1965. For a long time, it was known as Beech Park (it splits Northeast Beech Street), and there was some consideration given to naming it after the family who sold the parcel of land to the city, the Garres. Ultimately, after an at-times contentious and arcane process (as previously reported by the Mid-county Memo), it became known as Luuwit View, after the Klickitat name for Mount St. Helens.

The Luuwit View park is an expansive property that sits tucked away between Fremont and Shaver streets, in the Argay Terrace neighborhood, adjacent to several small farm properties and Shaver Elementary School. It has a unique “bowtie” shape, with two large sections bottlenecking in the middle with a walkway.

The nearly completed skating bowl, sure to be a major attraction at the park.

The nearly completed skating bowl, sure to be a major attraction at the park.

“We wanted design excellence—that was the thing that was most important to the Parks Bureau. This is a park on the east side, and we wanted to make sure to put a lot of effort into making design more equitable around the city,” says Britta Herwig, project manager at Luuwit View. Herwig has led the park’s construction since groundbreaking last summer.

Luuwit View is roughly 16 acres, with the larger parcel of land being the south side. Before construction began last year, it was basically just an open meadow with a steep slant—an 80-foot drop from one side to the other. Herwig notes this as one of the major design challenges that faced Studio, the landscape architects who designed the park. They conquered the issue with a set of land terraces that are linked by weaving Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant pathways for accessibility.

“The south parcel is the activity hub of the park,” says Herwig. It encompasses a soccer field, an amphitheater lawn in front of a covered shelter, which can be used for live performances, an off-leash dog area, a restroom, a parking area, storm-water treatment area, a playground and a unique interactive water feature. They call it a “fog garden.”

“The master plan called for a water feature, and they are usually spray-grounds which waste a lot of water. We wanted something more sustainable, so we use much tighter nozzles, which creates fog instead of sprays,” says Herwig, continuing, “There will be trees in there, and we hope it will be a more refreshing experience than just running through water.”

The future play area of the park, adjacent to the amphitheater stage.

The future play area of the park, adjacent to the amphitheater stage.

The covered shelter area has tables underneath it, so it can be used as a picnic area. But it doubles as a stage or screening area for outdoor shows of all kinds, expanding the park’s utility to the community.

Two percent of the budget for the project was earmarked for art in the park. Located in the south parcel, Herwig proudly shows off the sculpture under construction next to the dog area.

“It’s going to be a bird looking up to the sky and starting to fly. There [are] going to be panels; it’ll be beautiful,” says Herwig. “The art is located on the axis of the park: to the north you can see St. Helens very clearly, and to the east you can see Mt. Hood. So the sculpture is the intersection of the two views.”

Ecuadorian artist Mauricio Robalino, who is based out of Tacoma and whose work appears all over the Pacific Northwest, created the sculpture. It is being erected as a joint effort between the construction team, who helped install the base, and Robalino, who is putting together the rest.

Workers had a rough winter with snows and moisture making the ground impossible to work with.

Workers had a rough winter with snows and moisture making the ground impossible to work with.

The north parcel of the park is more of a place for food and gathering, though it does feature its own fair share of activity space. In addition to basketball courts and a skate park, is a large, open lawn for less-structured activity, two steel ping-pong tables and a climbing structure. But the focus of the space is the picnic area and the community garden.

“They really want to grow food,” says Herwig of the community members who responded to calls for input on the park, “and one of the wish list items we were able to fulfill was a community garden. I believe it’s one of the larger community gardens in Portland.”

Community garden plots will be available through Portland Parks and Recreation once the park is open to the public.

Doug Cook, chair of the Argay Terrace Neighborhood Association and a nearby resident, weighed in on Luuwit View with largely positive sentiments. “Our goal is to improve the livability of Argay Terrace, and we’re excited about the potential for the park to draw positive publicity and become a destination point,” says Cook. He did also express concerns about the way Argay Park on Northeast 141st Avenue at Beech Street has become a magnet for people parking nearby, loitering and leaving garbage behind.

Project manager Britta Herwig surveys the construction site with her crew.

Project manager Britta Herwig surveys the construction site with her crew.

“We’re afraid we’ll see that carryover to Luuwit View,” says Cook of Argay park. “We get complaints on it from people all the time, lots of trash left behind daily. That’s the one negative concern we have, but mostly we’re very positive about it and want to see it used widely.”

One of the concerns of both the community members and the city is basic security. Being next door to both private residents and a school, both of which will seek to prevent children from wandering in the park, means security precautions will need to be taken. The park is separated from the farms to the west and the school to the east by fences. Natural hedges will surround the rest of the park, and while it will “close” at normal times as all city parks do, it won’t be gated.

Also of key concern to people hoping to use the space that don’t live immediately nearby is parking and street access. There are parking lots on both parcels, giving vehicle access to the park from Northeast 127th Avenue, Northeast 129th Avenue, and Northeast 131st Place. Additionally, pedestrians can enter from Northeast Failing Court and Northeast Beech Street.

The crew was hindered by a particularly wet winter, which caused the ground to be often too wet to work on. But Herwig is confident when asked if the park will be completed on schedule and ready for opening this fall.

Site of future community garden plots at Luuwit View.

Site of future community garden plots at Luuwit View.

“Absolutely. We gave ourselves some extra time because the winter can be unpredictable. This winter was very wet; it almost shut us down,” says Herwig.

Gateway Discovery: A park and a launch pad
George Lozovoy has been the project manager for the Gateway Discovery Park since February of 2014. Unlike the much larger Luuwit View property, which contracted to an outside landscape architect, Lozovoy also serves in that role on this project as well, making him the designer and the overseer of construction.

“This all started in 2008,” says Lozovoy of the almost decade-long process of building a park. “The master plan was completed in 2010, after the land was acquired and remediation done on the contaminated properties that existed here.”

“A large open lawn, a skate spot, the all-inclusive play area—those are the main components of the park—and then there’s a lot of open space so that it can accommodate anything that comes here, like a farmer’s market, with the infrastructure—power, water—that they need.”

“There’s also a water feature and stadium seating around it, so we’re creating different types of spaces for different types of events; a market area, performance areas, even larger events in the lawn area,” says Lozovoy as he shows off the various misters, bubblers and jets in the impressive water feature.

Robalino’s statue (base only), the art centerpiece of the park, in process.

Robalino’s statue (base only), the art centerpiece of the park, in process.

“We’re going to program events here, similar to the program at Holladay Park—ping pong tables, yoga classes, et cetera” says Lozovoy. He highlights the general interactivity of the space and the high level of involvement Portland Parks and Recreation will have in making the park a successful experiment.

There’s a storage facility, restroom and a large steel structured canopy for outdoor use during the rain and at night so people can still use the park for gathering and outdoor dining. There’s also a small booth/office space where park staff can keep an eye on things and lend out board games, sports equipment and give general info for parkgoers. Gateway Discovery also boasts a net gain in tree planting for the area, as they removed only eight trees during construction and are planting 110 new ones.

Portland Parks and Recreation is far from alone in this whole undertaking. “Harper’s Playground is an organization that takes the next step beyond ADA compliance, and they believe in inclusive design—meaning all facilities accessible to all people, including kids,” says Lozovoy of one of the project’s partners. “They donated $250,000 in playground equipment and surfacing, and helped with the design of the playground.” This would make it only the second playground of this type in the city, one that will be “barrier free.”

The 3.2-acre park itself is packed with different features meant to involve residents as well as promote the overall economic health of the Gateway community.

“The vision is that this become an urban plaza and a neighborhood park,” says Lozovoy, “those are sometimes very distinct from each other.” He points to Director Park downtown as an urban plaza and Fields Park in the Pearl District as a good example of a neighborhood park, and he expands on how Gateway Discovery intends to be both.

An elaborate water feature that will eventually be surrounded by stadium seating.

An elaborate water feature that will eventually be surrounded by stadium seating.

The urban plaza is intended to host gatherings such as farmers markets while also docking with a food cart area. When complete, the area on Northeast 106th Avenue bordering the urban plaza will have extra lighting and parking for a proposed food truck cluster.

There’s also an elegant new skate park, though that will likely come as no surprise to residents; neighborhood kids have been sneaking on-site for months, using the bowl early and forcing Lozovoy to flood it. Even that didn’t work for a time, and currently they’ve adopted a water-and-obstacles method by filling up the bowl with water and fences, so kids don’t use it before the park opens.

Unlike Luuwit View, Gateway Discovery seems to be more geared toward family and adult use, but it will still feature play areas for kids. There’s a space with a climbing structure, swings, water and sand features as well as restroom facilities onsite.

The park sits on a four-acre parcel of land, and nearly a full acre has been left to Prosper Portland (formerly the Portland Development Commission) to help local businesses create jobs in the area. Prosper is another one of the project’s partners, having donated a million dollars to construction.

Susan Kuhn is the project manager with Prosper for their portion of the park. There has been no shortage of debate on the development (as covered previously in the Mid-county Memo), with plans seemingly changing quietly from a largely mixed-use site to a mostly low-income housing complex, much to the chagrin of many local residents.

The steel canopy that will eventually cover the sitting area.

The steel canopy that will eventually cover the sitting area.

“We’re pretty firm on there being 40 units of affordable housing, 35 units of workforce (or middle-income housing), approximately 12,000 square feet of office space and around 11,000 of ground-floor retail space,” says Kuhn.

The development will also feature the new headquarters of Human Solutions (in the 12,000-foot office space), the nonprofit that won the rights to lead the project and will be putting in the low-income housing overlooking the park.

Neighbors of the park have expressed concerns about the situation with homeless, squatters, campers and RVs that have made a seemingly permanent home on the streets around the park, Northeast 106th Avenue, Northeast Wasco Street, Northeast Clackamas Street and Northeast 104th Avenue.

“I think people are going to camp there, just like they are now,” says R.J. Jackson, a local resident who lives down the street from the park. Jackson has lived here for decades and seen the businesses that used to occupy the land come and go. “In the great recession, we saw a big influx,” says Jackson of the campers. “I don’t really care if it’s a park or not. I just don’t want it to be a camping area. And it already is.”

Kuhn feels the development of the low-income housing overlooking the park, in conjunction with an aggressive programming plan from Portland Parks and Recreation, will lead to increased activity and participation within the community and, in turn, a more inviting atmosphere at Gateway Discovery.

“That’s why this development is important: so you get eyes on the park, you get more active use with the retail space, but also with the housing,” says Kuhn. “That’s the way you’re going to get positive uses in the park.”