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Albina eyesore gets a new look

Neighbors, nonprofit and PDC band together for project

A small piece of land in North Portland is about to get a big makeover, thanks to the combined efforts of the Humboldt Neighborhood Association, the Portland Development Commission and the nonprofit City Repair Project.

The site, known as the Albina Triangle, sits at the base of a grassy hill just north of the newly bustling business district on North Mississippi Avenue. Plans call for improving safety and making the spot at 4500 N. Albina Ave. more ecofriendly by diverting storm-water runoff, using recycled materials and introducing native plants.

Construction should begin this spring.

'We're really fortunate to have this opportunity,' said Lisa Libby, the representative from City Repair responsible for spearheading the project. 'Hopefully it will continue to open the door to similar projects.'

Residents can look at the proposed design for the paved-over area on Tuesday.

The Albina Triangle is formed where North Prescott Street dead-ends and Mississippi swerves, becoming North Albina Avenue. Today, a few lonely trees poke out of holes in the cement. A speeding car recently destroyed one of two concrete benches. It's a tough spot for pedestrians to cross, and drivers often get confused by the Y-shaped split in the road.

The idea of improving the space first was discussed by members of the Humboldt Neighborhood Association two years ago. At the time, 'safety was the biggest issue,' said Jennifer Parks, secretary for the Humboldt Neighborhood Association.

Parks initially thought that it could all be done by neighbors. It's turned, she said, into 'much more of a collaborative effort.'

To increase community participation in the venture, the PDC decided to bring in the local nonprofit City Repair Project.

This is a first-time collaboration between the PDC and City Repair, whose goal is to counteract the rigid structures of modern urban layouts. They believe a shortage of communal spaces isolates people and stunts communication within neighborhoods.

'City Repair's approach Ñ which concentrates on community involvement Ñ seemed appropriate for the site which sits in the middle of a heavily residential area,' according to Carol Herzberg, liaison for the PDC, which oversees the Interstate Corridor Urban Renewal Area where the triangle is located.

'One of the reasons City Repair was appealing was because of the significant amount of volunteer work and energy they bring to a project Ñ thereby keeping costs down,' Herzberg said.

Between June and August, City Repair's Libby led four community meetings, addressing safety and accessibility, ecological opportunities and local identity. The Northeast Portland resident also worked with neighbors to develop a questionnaire, which was later sent out to 550 households in a three-block radius around the site.

The Albina Triangle, Parks said, is another piece in the evolution of the Humboldt and Boise neighborhoods, which are experiencing business growth and infrastructure improvements.

'It's more involved than I expected it to be,' Parks said. 'I'm really confident that the outcome is going to be something that everyone will be proud of.'

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