News

Portland officials welcome downtown’s first public parklet (video)
Author: Karen O'Donnell Stein
Posted: July 2, 2015

On a recent June morning, the newest mini-park in Portland, known as the Fourth Avenue Parklet, was officially opened to the public at a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring the city’s own Mayor Charlie Hales and Portland State University President Wim Wiewel. 

Designed, constructed, and installed by PSU School of Architecture students, the Fourth Avenue Parklet provides an attractive gathering place and seating area for more than two dozen diners and neighbors at the popular food cart pod on Southwest Fourth between College and Hall Streets. The first public parklet in downtown Portland, the installation is intended to help revitalize this stretch of SW Fourth Avenue in the heart of the SoMa EcoDistrict (for “South of Market Street”), giving students, faculty, and workers from surrounding offices a place to sit and enjoy their food-cart lunches in the sunshine, rather than racing back to their desks to eat. 

“We need more of this kind of public space in a lively urban environment,” Mayor Charlie Hales said. “I’m interested in the idea of public space: How do we create it, and how do we find places for it in a city that, in many ways, is already built up. I want to commend the team, the students especially, and I want to encourage you to continue thinking that way.”

Hales spoke at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which also featured Erin Flynn of the SoMa EcoDistrict Steering Committee and Assistant Professor B.D. Wortham-Galvin of PSU’s School of Architecture. 

“This is a wonderful example of placemaking as well as community building,” said PSU President Wim Wiewel. “It’s a model of creativity, entrepreneurship, and civic pride, where our students have found a way to make a small part of the city more beautiful as well as more functional—and have done it in a way that really exemplifies the sustainability values that we have as a University and the values of the city we call home. ” 

The Fourth Avenue Parklet, designed with sustainability and stormwater management in mind, is composed of the following:

  • 768 linear feet of sustainably harvested juniper
  • 3,475 pounds of steel
  • 250 linear feet of repurposed escalator handrail 
  • Drought-resistant native plants

Community members have stood firmly behind the project throughout the design and building process. The parklet was made possible by the financial support of 141 donors, who contributed a total of $15,640 in cash and in-kind donations through a crowdfunding campaign earlier this year, an amount that helped to cover the cost of materials and other expenses. The SoMa EcoDistrict and the Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative of PSU’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions also provided significant support, as did PSU Master of Architecture alumnus Michael Coon, who served as the parklet’s project manager. 

The project took 18 months from its initial conception by students in a Fall 2014 PSU School of Architecture class taught by Assistant Professor B.D. Wortham-Galvin, through design and construction, culminating in the finished product, which 26 architecture students installed over Memorial Day weekend. The parklet received approval from the City of Portland as part of its Street Seats program in 2014.

“I want to thank the students of Portland State University School of Architecture,” Wortham-Galvin said. “They researched, envisioned, designed, permitted with the City, and constructed this with enthusiasm and leadership that really in my experience is unparalleled from any student body I’ve experienced at previous institutions. They are making a difference today through their education and contributing to the public life of the city. “