Last January, east Portland residents had plenty to say about a surprise open house dedicated to enhancing an infamous plot of local land. Now, a second open house for “Windscape,” the roundabout at Northeast Weidler Street and 102nd Avenue, is scheduled for June 21 at the East Portland Neighborhood Office (1017 N.E. 117th Ave.) from 3 to 7 p.m.
As previously reported (“Updates to ‘Windscape’ roundabout draw strong reactions,” MCM February 2018), a flurry of attendees criticized the potential move of pouring more money into a site that has been historically updated and then largely abandoned by the city with little maintenance.
The Windscape, also known as the “jug handle,” has a checkered past. A quick history: in 2008, a pot of $100,000 was allotted to the property to create a “living sculpture,” as well as 51 20-foot-large red poles, low stone walls and an array of plantings, which some locals have since bemoaned as being non-native species doomed in their current climate from the start.
Mike Abbaté, a landscape architect, was hired by the city to build Windscape. He later became the director of Portland Parks & Recreation in 2011 until he was ousted this April by city commissioner Amanda Fritz for allegedly failing to come into the office enough, as well as for struggling to follow racial equity initiatives.
Abbaté’s red poles were so unpopular that they fell victim to vandalization, only to be torn down by the city in 2014 (“Vandalism blows Windscape away,” MCM November 2014). Since then, the site has eroded into further decay, supporting homeless campers known to litter and defecate without deterrence within its borders. This February (“Neighbors clean up traffic jug handle formerly known as ‘Windscape,’” MCM February 2018), several locals fed up with the site’s disheveled state took cleanup into their own hands, under the impression that if they didn’t do it, nobody would.
The revival effort to redesign the roundabout is being led by Tom Badrick, the longtime Parkrose Heights Association of Neighbors chair. One of Badrick’s grants has been gifted around $60,000 by Prosper Portland (PP) to update Windscape. The grant also involves participation from the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), which owns the land, as well as the Bureau of Environmental Services (BES). BES is dedicated to upgrading a bioswale on the site, out of pocket.
But even Badrick was taken aback by the backlash provided by the first open house, held Jan. 4. Some commented on the open house’s apparent lack of advertising, claiming they only stumbled upon it last minute. In response, Badrick is quick to note that the several design concepts featured at the first open house were just that––ideas meant to gauge community feedback, not sturdy site projections.
“A key point I want to get across is that we really want the public’s feedback,” says Badrick, appealing to his community. “It [the final product] may not look exactly like they want because there are many considerations, and the city has the final decision, but I want people to think both today and long-term because we can always apply for more money to do something if we get started now and keep adding to it.”
The current project on the table comes with a twist. PP wishes to complete the project in two phases. Right now, Badrick is working with a grant that pays for the design phase, but another grant will be necessary for the construction itself. “It’s basically two parts of the same grant. They don’t want to authorize $40,000 for a concept they haven’t seen and approved of yet,” says Badrick.
While the June 21 open house is ready for showtime, Badrick admits that updated designs have yet to gain approval from BES. Architectural design concepts are being drawn by firm Nevue Ngan Associates Landscape Architecture (NNA), who are being paid through PP’s first grant. “They’ll be done before the next public meeting. We’ll sit down and say either, ‘that’s physically possible,’ or ‘that’s not physically possible,’” says Badrick. “This time around, we’re showing an update to the options from the first open house. We weren’t proposing to do those sculptures; we were trying to get an idea of the scale or the height of how big something might be.”
The defining feature of this newest batch of concept designs, Badrick says, is that they stand a chance of seeing the light of day. That is, barring PBOT, PP, BES or community intervention.
According to Badrick, if the neighborhood overwhelmingly supports one of the concepts on display at the second open house, it has an “exceptional chance” of making it through to the final round. “If something is 90 percent favored by the public, it’s unlikely the final review committee will say, ‘That’s a stupid idea,’” says Badrick. “But if we end up with three designs, none of them are going to be horrible. I’m listening.”
The timeline for the Windscape’s next makeover remains up in the air.
“I’d like to finish design work by summer and then [have] construction drawings [completed] by fall,” says Badrick. “Then after that, it’s hard to say because we don’t have the designs yet. I’m really hopeful that we’ll see something by winter, but that’s a very optimistic point of view.”
In the meantime, it might remain up to the neighborhood to continue grooming the Windscape site.
If you have questions or concerns regarding plans for the site of the Windscape, you are invited to call Badrick at 971-325-9727 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.