Repaving the Way 

Out with Old Pavement, In with Public Spaces

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PAVEMENT HAS LOST to Portland this summer. The past months have welcomed a variety of pavement repurposing pro-jects across the city, bringing new uses to parking lots and alleyways. Local concrete-busting nonprofit Depave has been working in Portland since 2008 to transform patches of pavement, and it looks like their ideas are catching on. Here's a look at three projects that have repurposed Portland pavement this summer.

Public Art Space

North Portland contemporary art venue Disjecta took a destructive approach to their 8,000-square-foot parking lot last Friday, August 19.. While Disjecta has renovated the inside of their warehouse since taking it over in 2008, the parking lot surrounding the art space was left untouched.

"Once you look at the sea of asphalt, it makes sense. Something had to be done," says Disjecta Director Bryan Suereth. In collaboration with Depave, Disjecta is turning their lot into an "outdoor performance and gathering space" with an amphitheater, water-permeable sidewalk paths, and trees that will serve as rainwater diverters. This is the first time an artistic venue in the city has torn up part of their private property to make a public park.

"I hope this provides Portland with something very distinct," Suereth says.

Community Garden

The day after Disjecta's pavement tear-up, Depave and Portland Community Gardens organized a few dozen asphalt-smashing citizens to uproot 10,000 square feet of pavement at Northeast Portland's Frazer Park to build gridded garden plots and plant fruit and berries for public grazing.

Turning the pavement lot into a garden wasn't as easy as breaking out the pickaxes. The Frazer garden group spent two years raising $22,000 in grants and donations and got a last-minute $63,000 cash infusion from the city to pay for permits, buy materials, and do extensive environmental testing of the site's soil.

"When everyone comes together over something this important," Parks Commissioner Nick Fish told the crowd at the groundbreaking, "it's a thing of beauty."

Car-Free Café

In June, seven restaurants lining SW Ankeny between 2nd and 3rd Avenue petitioned the city for a special permit to turn the street into a car-free sidewalk café replete with picnic tables and strings of lights. Despite some protest from homeless groups over the idea of turning a public street into private space, the city let the businesses essentially rent the block for $1,400 a month. Now, halfway through the closure's four-month trial run, business is as usual. This comes as a surprise to Voodoo Doughnut co-owner Tres Shannon.

"To be honest, I've been the crankiest one behind this idea," Shannon says, calling Ankeny Alley "the crotch of the city." But even Shannon admits to its success. Free of "homeless drum jam circles," as he says, the street closure has brought more people to the outdoor space and created a network between the participating businesses.

"I'm pleasantly surprised that it worked out," Shannon says. "Who knows, it may stick."

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