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New east Portland park coming… soon


Looks like east Portland is getting a new park. Commissioner Amanda Fritz favors Beech in Argay Terrace. If neighborhood doyenne Alesia Reese gets her way, it'll be Parklane in outer southeast. Shaver Elementary students pictured in May 2008 are participating in a Beech Park design workshop, part of the master planning process. Wherever it is located, it will be the first new park since Senn's Dairy Park was built in 2009 in Parkrose.
Mid-county Memo photo/Tim Curran
Portland City Commissioner and Parks Bureau head Amanda Fritz wants to build a new park in east Portland. Where exactly isn't yet known, but sources tell the Memo Fritz is now narrowing her search.

Fritz, who Portland Mayor Charlie Hales recently chose to oversee Portland Parks & Recreation, is currently scoping out sites in Mid-Multnomah County as the potential home for one new multi-million dollar park project.

The city currently has four sites in east Portland that have parks planned for them but which haven't yet been funded. So far, Fritz is keeping quiet about which site she and the Parks Bureau will ultimately choose.

“We hope to make an announcement in January about what we plan to do in east Portland,” said Tim Crail, policy advisor to Commissioner Fritz. “But at this point we're still gathering information and we're waiting to hear back from the Parks' board.”

Crail told the Memo Fritz is now leaning toward one park out of the four the city wants to develop, but he wouldn't say which one.

Other sources told the Memo Fritz had narrowed her search earlier and was weighing the pros and cons of two potential sites: The Beech Park Property in the Argay neighborhood-located in central Northeast Portland; and the Parklane Property in the Centennial neighborhood-located in outer southeast Portland close to Gresham. Sources told the Memo Fritz is leaning more toward the Beech Park than Parklane Property.

“The city wants Beech, and Amanda wants Beech,” said Alesia Reese, chair of the East Portland Parks Coalition.

The coalition, which consists of representatives from 13 east Portland neighborhood associations, including the Parkrose, Centennial, and Pleasant Valley associations, is a volunteer group representing east Portland's parks and future parks interests.

Currently, there are no representatives from the Argay neighborhood on the coalition, according to Reese.

In September, Fritz met with the East Portland Parks Coalition to discuss which east Portland site the Parks Bureau would pursue.

Reese, who hails from the Woodland Park neighborhood, was present at the September meeting with Fritz. Reese said during the meeting Fritz argued for Beech Park. She said the coalition is leaning in the other direction.

“The East Portland Parks Coalition supports Parklane,” said Reese. “I support the Parklane master plan. If only one has to go through, it better be Parklane.”

Reese said the coalition's support for Parklane is partially due to organizing by the Centennial neighborhood and the lack of Argay neighborhood representatives on the coalition.

Officially, there are still four Mid-Multnomah County sites currently on the Parks Bureau and Commissioner Fritz's drawing board. In addition to Beech and Parklane, the city has drawn up plans, called master plans, for the Clatsop Butte Property in Pleasant Valley and the Gateway Urban Plaza Property near the Gateway Transit Center.

Alan Brown, new president of the Argay Neighborhood Association (ANA), also confirmed that he'd heard Fritz was currently deciding between the Beech or Parklane projects.

“All we know is Beech is one of the two finalists and the decision is in the process,” said Brown. Brown said Fritz has not met with the ANA to discuss the Beech Park project, but said the ANA supports the building of a new park on the Beech site.

The Beech Park Property is currently 15.7 acres of empty land consisting of two parcels that form a figure eight shape that bumps up against Shaver Elementary School, which is in the Parkrose School District. Once farmland, the Beech Park Property is now covered in grass and weeds. The Beech Park master plan was finalized in 2008. Its two parcels of land were acquired in1984 and 2000.

Portland Parks & Recreation estimates the total cost of creating Beech Park at $7.87 million. Of the four east Portland sites on the drawing board, only the Gateway Urban Plaza Park project is cheaper. Parks estimates that project at $4.75 million. The most expensive project is Parklane. Parks estimates the total cost for that project at $28 million.

In October, Commissioner Fritz told the Oregonian the city had enough money-about $8 million-to develop “one significant park.”

In the Oregonian story, Fritz said the money for a new park would come from housing construction revenue funds through system development charges, or SDCs, a tax on city construction in effect.

Crail confirmed that the park's funding would come from SDCs funds alone and that Fritz isn't considering either a levy or a bond to pay for the project.

While the SDCs money is expected to be enough for a single project, Crail told the Memo Commissioner Fritz and the Parks Bureau are also looking for corporate and individual partners willing to donate to the park project.

“We are looking for partners to help fund the project, so that's ongoing. But we will be moving forward before that's all settled. And, as we move forward, we will continue to look for partners,” said Crail.

Past projects have significantly benefited from partnerships, according to the Oregonian's reporting.

Following its story on east Portland parks, the Oregonian published an editorial arguing that Beech Park should be the property that gets developed.

That Beech Park has been at the top of Fritz's and the Oregonian's list is potentially due to the Parks Bureau's own numbers.

In 2001, Portland City Council approved “Parks 2020 Vision,” a comprehensive plan aimed at making Portland's parks and nature areas easily accessible, by a half-mile or less walk, for all Portlanders.

In 2011, according to the Parks Bureau, 79 percent of city residents met that standard. East Portland tells a different story. Only about 63 percent of east Portlanders met the standard, according to the bureau, compared to 98 percent of residents in the central city and 88 percent of residents in Northwest Portland neighborhoods.

Mark Ross, spokesman for Portland Parks & Recreation estimates east Portland now contains about 40 percent of the city's families with children.

Addressing the issue of park distribution throughout the city, Ross wrote in an email, “We have made major strides in east Portland, but have a lot of work left to do. One major goal we have is to increase the number of developed parks and recreation opportunities in the area in the interest of equity.”

Part of the Parks Bureau's project analysis has been to breakdown how many families will be served by a given project. According to bureau numbers, Beech Park is expected to serve approximately 1,426 households. Of these, 965 are identified as new households, or households that are not already served by an existing park. By contrast, the Parks Bureau estimates Parklane will serve 2,119 households with only about 357 of those being new households.

The last park to open in Mid-county was Senn's Dairy Park, a single acre plot at Northeast Prescott Street, not far from the Beech Park site. The park opened in 2009.
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