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As dust settles, its time to party

Old Town-Chinatown caps $5.35 million redo with music, dance, more

After four years of planning and 18 months of construction work, major streetscape improvements in Portland's Old Town-Chinatown neighborhood are almost complete.

Improvements to several blocks in the area include new sidewalks, curb extensions, more than 100 new trees and eight large, sculpted lanterns made of granite that will be located on the two 'festival streets' within the renovated area.

The improvements are to an area on Northwest Third and Fourth avenues between West Burnside and Northwest Glisan streets.

'It will hopefully create a warm environment … for all folks in this area,' said Louis K.C. Lee, co-chairman of a citizens group that helped guide the improvements. Lee is a certified public accountant with an office in the area.

'I would venture to say we want life in this area - life in many different forms. In the form of traffic, in the form of soul, in the form of positive images,' Lee said.

A main component of the improvements will be an area at the center of the streetscape renovation - between Northwest Davis and Flanders streets and between Third and Fourth avenues - that can be closed off to automobile traffic and become a venue for street festivals and events, Lee said.

'We have this very creative concept of urban use of streets,' he said. 'To create open space - I think the word we call it is a 'festival street' - this particular concept is something we're proud of.'

Another component of the improvements are 20 2-foot-square bronze plaques that will be embedded into the sidewalks throughout the area. The plaques will include designs on them that symbolize the varied cultures - Chinese, Japanese, Greek, Jewish, African-American - that have been part of the area.

The $5.35 million project was paid for by the Portland Office of Transportation and the Portland Development Commission.

The neighborhood will celebrate the project's completion this weekend with an autumn moon festival that also will coincide with traditional midautumn festivals that are an important part of Chinese heritage.

The events will begin with a ribbon cutting Friday evening and a walk by special guests to the China Gate at Northwest Fourth and Burnside to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the gate's arrival in Portland.

Events Saturday and Sunday in the transformed area will include a parade and musical and other performances by local groups.