Contemporary art venue Disjecta has big plans for their boring parking lot. The artists who work in the North Portland warehouse space broke ground today on their Open Space project, a plan to transform their 8,000 square foot lot into an "outdoor performance and gathering space". Disjecta moved from their SE 3rd Avenue location to a more industrial lot in in the Kenton neighborhood in 2008. While they've been renovating the spot's interior over the past years, the massive parking lot surrounding the art space has been left untouched. Until now.

"The time had come to extend the visibility to the exterior," says Disjecta director Bryan Suereth. "Once you look at the sea of asphalt, it makes sense. Something had to be done." Suereth originally planned to solely cut a square out of the parking lot and filling it with grass. Instead, he decided to go big.

Here's what the lot looks like now:

And what they hope it will look like by May 2012:


Disjecta is teaming up with local concrete-busting nonprofit Depave to turn the parking lot into a park. While Depave has ripped asphalt and concrete off of numerous schools playgrounds and private lots in Portland, this is the first time an artistic venue in the city has torn up part of their private property to make a public park. Along with benches and paths, the area will have a small amphitheater to host performances.

For Depave's Ted Labbe, an aquatics ecologist with an admitted passion for destroying pavement, this project's main focus is on diverting rainwater runoff. The new space will combine permeable pavement with bioswales designed to redirect water into the ground, rather than the sewage stream.

"I know from experience that stream restoration in urban settings is always detrimental," Labbe says. "Here we'll create a natural cycle without that challenge."

Although Disjecta held its groundbreaking event today, construction is already underway. Suereth says he estimates the work to be finalized by October, but won't hold the grand opening until May.

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