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Land around I-205 about to become park

by: David Ashton, Ted Gilbert, real estate developer, and Arlene Kimura, chairwoman of the Hazelwood neighborhood’s association, share their dreams for the Gateway Green.

It may be difficult to picture the 35 acres they're talking about along Iinterstate 205 in East Portland that park lovers hope will become the Gateway Green. But lots of folks are enthusiastic about the possibilities the park affords.

A group of more than 40 participants spent several hours huddled around tables holding drawings in the gym at Crossroads Christian Church during a meeting about the park a couple weeks ago.

These folks were looking at plans and commenting on how a strip of land - running along I-205 from the Gateway Transit Center north to Rocky Butte - might become an accessible natural area.

'I am really excited about the site's potential,' said Linda Robinson, East Portland Parks chairwoman, after the meeting. 'I'm pretty confident we can reach an agreement with Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), and actually make this neglected property work for the community.'

Says project will 'create a positive buzz'

At each of the half-dozen large tables, community members conferred with planners, landscape architects and officials - and shaded in, drew on and noted their comments on large drawings of the project.

At one table, developer Ted Gilbert said he's 'absolutely enthusiastic about this project. The Gateway Green is something that will create a destination to visit and a 'positive buzz' around the entire region. People will come and take a fresh look at Gateway.'

The Gateway already has 'some amazing attributes,' Gilbert said. 'It's one of the most accessible areas in the region, being the epicenter of the MAX light-rail system, and it offers underdeveloped land.'

'A lot of people might say, 'yes, but it's Gateway,' ' Gilbert said. 'But if this project comes about, it may spur catalytic quality development here.'

According to traffic studies, Gilbert said, about 65 million people go past the site every year - on their way to somewhere else.

'But if we make it accessible, by a 4-minute walk, to the Gateway Transit Center - or other pedestrian and bicycle access points - and if it gets connected with the Sullivan's Gulch bicycle trail, there will be a lot of visitors who come to enjoy it.'

Based on the ideas being discussed at the tables, it appears the area could be a recreational opportunity for cycling, pedestrians, running and jogging, as well as a safe area for bicycle commuting.

'This could create the branding that puts the Gateway region on the map,' Gilbert said. 'The question is whether or not we can pull it off.'

The process continues

Robinson explained that the neighbors interested in the project must go through several more steps, addressing the issues identified by ODOT when it gave permission to do this initial exploration phase.

'It will take a while to move through the rest,' Robinson said, 'answering questions, like which organization would manage and maintain the site. We wanted to get a better feel for what activities the community would like to see there before we talked with a specific agency/organization about management.'