While Luuwit View, Ventura, Argay Park and other Portland Parks and Recreation, (PP&R) projects in east Portland have opened to varying levels of fanfare, one of the most ballyhooed of the bunch, Gateway Discovery, on Northeast Halsey Street at 106th Avenue, has suffered from some construction delays. Now, with an opening date set, programming falling into place and progress on the mixed-use development next door going forward as well, Gateway Discovery is set to be the next big feather in PP&R’s cap. “Gateway Discovery is the signature park in east Portland, which I’m particularly excited about,” said City Commissioner Amanda Fritz about the soon-to-be-open park. “I was on the planning commission when I said there’s got to be a park in this new urban renewal area. There are in the urban renewal areas downtown, and east Portland deserves the public spaces that are the center of the community. And what better than parks?”
Gateway Discovery will have its grand opening Saturday, Aug. 4 at 10 a.m. The park, which the Mid-county Memo reported on extensively in the fall, has made major progress since then, with the playgrounds and the other park structures coming together. One of the many jewels in the Gateway Discovery crown is the universal accessibility of the play areas. PP&R partnered with Harper’s Playground, a nonprofit that attempts to make playgrounds accessible for all children, regardless of their physical capabilities. “East Portland has been park-deficient for decades. When the Gateway Urban Renewal Area was planned, a destination park that would be a catalyst for the business district was a key element. Making Gateway Discovery Park a reality was my first priority for new parks when I became the Parks Commissioner, Fritz added, noting the importance of the accessible nature of the park. “Harper’s Playground has led community advocacy for inclusive play areas all over Portland, and I am grateful for their partnership in making Gateway Discovery Park an even more special place—a place for everyone to play.”
Cody Goldberg is the Executive Director of Harper’s Playground. “Everybody deserves play, because play is such an important part of human development,” said Goldberg. The original Harper’s Playground was built five years ago and has become an influential model in playground building. Central to it is a “play hill.” “The hill gives children a chance to run, play and hide—it’s far more playable than post and platform structures,” said Goldberg. “There are hills, spinners and lots of things to climb on, lots of play elements; the central feature is the hill, with a spiral pathway to the top, so people with wheels can get to the top. It’s got an attunement swing, which allows adults and children to swing face-to-face. There are also musical elements, like xylophones.”
The opening of Gateway Discovery also means things will be happening there as well. Already planned are movies, picnics, DJ performances, dance parties in the park and the Tongan Festival.
Mixed-use development at Gateway Discovery Park
Fresh off an open house held in April where the community was invited to once again give input on the project, Andy Miller, executive director of Human Solutions, spoke to the Mid-county Memo about what’s happening with the project. “The open house was about sharing with our neighbors in the Hazelwood neighborhood and the Gateway area the updated schematic designs for the project. Those designs have been developed over the last year with a lot of input from the community,” said Miller. “So, it was an opportunity to check back in with them to see if the updated detailed designs met with their approval and support.”
Hosted by Gerding Edlen, the real estate firm in charge of the project, the event also featured representatives from Human Solutions, a nonprofit that seeks to help find affordable housing for low-income people and families, and Holst, the architecture firm designing the development. Holst unveiled storyboards that featured updated concept simulations of the final product. “We talked a little bit about how the overall development process was going, and that the program remained the same: 75 units of housing, 40 of them being affordable and the other 35 renting at market rates. 10,000 square feet of street is fronting retail space, and above that a 10,000-square-foot office space that Human Solutions will occupy,” said Miller.
Construction is set to break ground in December and will take roughly 16 to 18 months, according to Miller’s estimation. “There’s an overarching challenge that every developer of affordable housing is facing right now, which is the construction costs and availability of subcontractors right now,” said Miller, “so we are as a team preparing for the challenge of having the budget to face any future cost escalation between now and when we go into construction.”
Other than that, there have been few obstacles and the response from the community, through reviews of the plans, has been positive. The biggest change presented at the open house from previous designs was the moving of a community room from the second floor to the first.
Human Solutions’ main concerns, of course, rest with the fate of the housing, and the second-floor space destined to be their headquarters. But other stakeholders, such as Prosper Portland, the city’s economic and urban development agency, have strong interest in what will happen to the retail space that is going in. “We are having conversations with different folks and trying to honor the preferences of the neighborhood that came to us from the community engagement process. We know people want to see retail uses that align well with the residential buildings and the park, things like fresh food, an ice cream shop, a coffee shop, a brew pub … those kinds of things,” said Miller of the future retail options that will reside in the development. “And we’re going to do the best we can to find businesses that meet those criteria to move into those spaces.”
Carly Harrison represented Gerding Edlen at the open house and spoke about what is to come at the site, echoing Miller’s words on the future of retail. “We worked with the community last year to come up with a design and a program that met some of the goals of the community; retail on the ground floor that connects to the park and hopefully complements the park, that’s the goal,” said Harrison.
The master lease for the development will rest with Prosper Portland, so they would be the contact point for businesses looking to find a footing in the development.
People seeking more information on the future of the mixed-use development at Gateway Discovery Park can attend the next Gateway Area Business Association luncheon May 10 at El Indio restaurant, 11114 N.E. Halsey St., where Gerding Edlen will be represented, or the Hazelwood Neighborhood Association meeting May 21 at the East Portland Neighborhood Office, 1017 N.E. 117th Ave., where they will also be answering questions and taking community input.