“Windscape” is a traffic jug handle known by many names. It’s sometimes referred to as the “traffic circle,” or “roundabout,” while others simply know it by its location at Northeast Weidler Street and 102nd Avenue. Faced with an impending round of property updates, the Windscape has also succumbed, by some, to the title of a gigantic mess.
“The issue is that this is a traffic circle; it’s not a park. There’s no public access to it, and there should be no public access to it,” explains Linda Allaway, a lifelong Portlander and longtime Parkrose resident who moved to the area in 1958 from the Mount Tabor neighborhood. “Updating it is a way to patch things up with no long-term future. If you don’t have the money to maintain it, why build it?”
Development is spearheaded by a Parkrose Heights Association of Neighbors (PHAN) grant written by Tom Badrick, PHAN’s chair. The grant has been awarded around $60,000 by Prosper Portland with participation from the Portland Bureau of Transportation (which owns the land), as well as the Bureau of Environmental Services, which would be upgrading an existing bioswale on the site out of pocket. In this case, a bioswale is a patch of stones meant for trapping rainwater.
In 2008, the property was landscaped at a cost of $100,000. It was designed by current Portland Parks & Recreation Director Mike Abbaté when he worked for the landscape architectural firm GreenWorks. The property, named Windscape, was created as a “living sculpture” and incorporated fifty-one 20-foot large red poles, low stone walls and an array of plantings. The poles, which were said to vibrate in the wind and were said to withstand 102-mile-per-hour winds, were later infamously vandalized and removed by the city in 2014 (“Vandalism blows Windscape away” MCM November 2014).
In January, we reported (“Gateway Green receives wayfinding signage” MCM January 2018) that there would be an open house to discuss the remodeling of the Windscape. It took place on Jan. 4 at the Kaiser Gateway Clinic. Allaway was in attendance. There, onlookers witnessed several “phases” of a redesign for the roundabout.
Phase 1, dubbed “Base Improvements,” illustrated an aerial sketch of the site. The rendering calls for the planting of some “iconic trees” while removing some previously erected leaning aspens. It suggests that some rubble be replaced on the site with a crushed rock surface and advocates for the removal of an on-site plaque. Irrigation would be repaired, and there would be a replanting of the stormwater facility––as well as boulders––on the Kaiser side. Post holders would be cut around the perimeter of the Windscape.
In the future, more fanciful improvements could include removing the site’s cable fence and adding some form of a garden. Larger, coordinated crushed rock paths would be erected in front of walls for circulation. These walls would cover––if the community is game––terrace gardens. The planting of native shrubs might also someday make an appearance, as well as a “landmark,” which right now is drawn as a “globe.” Other landmark or statue options presented as an example of what other communities have done included a towering life-sized saw knife and a sculpture resembling a silver-and-ruby ring. Steps with handrails could be added to make access to the Windscape easier. This might be the antithesis of some community member’s hopes for the site.
Allaway believes the site was created as a means of employment for numerous construction workers following the Great Recession of 2008, and she says it’s invited a flurry of homeless campers ever since. She prefers that future construction promote an uninhabitable environment. “I think ODOT [the Oregon Department of Transportation] does a wonderful job of providing safety islands that are not attractive spaces to walk around on,” she adds, noting that the roundabout is surrounded by roads, and if treated like a park, the Windscape might become a safety hazard for pedestrians trying to cross any of its adjacent streets.
And as heated as some reactions are, everybody seems to agree on one thing: changes aren’t coming any time soon.
Bluntly, a representative from the architecture firm employed to sketch the design phases, admits that there isn’t much green to work with. “Phase one is mostly ‘clean-up’ stuff,” says Jason Hirst of Nevue Ngan Associates Landscape Architecture (NNA). “Nothing [in terms of construction] is set up right now. We’re gathering thoughts and ideas about how to figure out the best way to use the limited resources to make [the Windscape] a better place. The stuff that’s shown in Phase 1, there’s a good chance that stuff will happen.”
According to Hirst, other factors affecting the implementation of the project are community interest and involvement. And while community input might separate NNA from GreenWorks in some community members’ eyes, the overall proposal is still perceived by some as hot air.
“They say they have no money to do anything, and nothing is going to happen,” says Craig Brustad, who’s lived in the area since the 1960s and attended the open house. “It’s a band-aid. I drive by [the Windscape] daily, and I look at that mess and think, ‘They spent $100,000 doing this, and it looks like a bunch of scattered concrete slabs chunked up into bricks.’”
Yet some members of the community remain optimistic.
“Assuming we apply for future funding, we should design big, not frugal. We want an awesome amazing space, not a budget space,” says Badrick, who believes about $27,000 of the grant is for design while the other $30,000 or so is for action.
“I would like something substantial,” adds Badrick. “Say we intend on six sculptures––we should lay the pads, prep them and be working with RACC [the Regional Arts and Culture Council] to fund the first. Or, if it’s revegetation, that could all be done with $30,000. When I wrote the grant, I intended to make money for a bench, trash can and kiosk, assuming the public is okay with that.”
So, if any neighbors are worried the benches might attract more campers, there’s still time to speak up and call Badrick at 971-325-9727 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.