at Gilbert’s office in downtown Portland yesterday
— share the newly completed Gateway Green
(Photos © J. Maus)
About seven miles east of downtown Portland, lies 35 acres of unused land between two interstate freeways.
Today, it’s just another anonymous, ODOT-owned parcel, but that’s about to change due to the unlikely partnership of an East Portland developer and a volunteer parks advocate. If their ambitious plans materialize, the parcel could become a hub if biking activity, a connection to nature for neighboring communities, and a catalyst for a long-awaited revitalization of East Portland.
For the past two years, Gateway area developer Ted Gilbert and parks advocate Linda Robinson have quietly worked on a project known as “Gateway Green”. The idea is turn a parcel of land between I-84 and I-205 (just north of the Gateway Transit Center) into an eco-sensitive, urban oasis that would provide recreational opportunities and make a statement about Portland and Oregon’s commitment to sustainability.
Now, with the completion this week of the Gateway Green Vision Plan, the project is gaining momentum.
Bike trails (in many forms) have been a part the vision for this space since Day One, so I have been keeping tabs on this project for over a year. Yesterday, I finally got a sneak peek at the Vision Plan and I met with Gilbert and Robinson to get an update.
After many meetings with stakeholders and neighborhood groups in the past months, Gilbert said he heard plenty of great ideas about what could be done with the project. “I know it could be a lot of things. But rather than be all things to all people, I thought, let’s do just a few things very well.”
Gilbert told me he has decided to zero in on two key elements — sustainability and biking.
In addition to extensive stormwater treatment, solar panels and wind turbines, Gilbert envisions Gateway Green as a mecca for bikes.
On page 11 of the Vision Plan (which was created by David Evans & Associates and won’t be made public until next week), “Bicycling” is listed first in a chapter on design. The copy mentions that “there is currently a shortage of suitable urban venues” for the “burgeoning sports of mountain biking, cyclocross, and free-riding.”
Authors of the plan write that Gateway Green would include “a critical link in the bicycle commute network”. Gilbert adds that plans call for a new bike access ramp from NE 102nd into the site and a proposed land bridge over I-205 that would eventually connect with the (not yet built) Sullivan’s Gulch Trail.
Once the Sullivan’s Gulch Trail is built, the Vision Plan states that, “Gateway Green becomes the nexus of north-south and east-west bicycle commuting in the region.”
But the real excitement about this project is not how you can ride through it on your way to work, but the new trails inside it for the knobby-tired set.
Singletrack trails are proposed for a wooded area of the site and a “figure 8 bicycle pathway” would take mountain bikes through the entire property, and eventually over a new I-205 bridge that would connect with the existing off-road trails in Rocky Butte Park.
Gilbert enthusiastically shared his hopes that Gateway Green becomes a host site for championship-level cyclocross and free-ride events. Key to the plan is a “pump-track” and mountain bike skills course that would welcome riders of all levels to test their skills over man-made obstacles and technical trails that would take advantage of the natural topography of the site (it slopes from south to north).
NE Halsey Street passes over the site’s southern tip and has a good view of where Gilbert sees the future free-riding course. “My plan,” he says with an excited tone, “is to create viewing platforms off of Halsey so spectators can get a good view of the action.”
The vision, the parcel, and Gilbert’s commitment to the project is exciting to say the least.
According to Linda Robinson — one of Portland’s most dedicated parks advocates who has worked with Gilbert on this project for two years — the Gateway Green site is geographically perfect. She notes that East Portland in general has been labeled “open space deficient” by the Coalition for a Livable Future’s Equity Atlas project.
Robinson and Gilbert also rattle off other stats like the fact that 300,000 people live within five square miles of the site and a whopping 65 million people pass by the site each year.
Metro says that — with two freeways, a MAX line, a Transit Center, commercial centers and the airport nearby — the area around Gateway Green is projected to be the “region’s most accessible location by 2017.”
As a commercial and residential property owner in the nearby Gateway area, Gilbert does not hide the fact that much of his motivation for this project lies in its “catalytic” potential to spark a resurgence in local property values.
“We hope this becomes the branding tool that helps people take a fresh look at East Portland,” he says, “and once people are out here recreating, then they might want to move here…
“There are a lot of details to hammer out, but we’re open to it.”
— ODOT spokesperson Christine Miles
But before any grand plans become reality there are two main issues hanging over the excitement — funding and ODOT.
ODOT currently owns the parcel and has to agree to convey the land or the project is dead in the water.
To even consider handing over their parcel, ODOT has laid out several conditions: they must maintain the right-of-way needed to widen I-205 if/when necessary; they do not want to incur any additional maintenance responsibilities; they do not want any increased legal liability; the plans cannot include any new roads (or alteration of existing roads); and there can be no commercial activity within the parcel.
Gilbert and Robinson met with ODOT yesterday to share the completed Vision Plan. So far, they say, “ODOT has been very supportive” and has essentially signed off on the concepts and ideas presented in the Vision Plan. ODOT has made no commitments to the project yet but Gilbert seems hopeful. “We’ve got several hurdles to jump still…but it should be doable.”
That sentiment is echoed by ODOT spokesperson Christine Miles. She says they’re excited about the project but that, “This is just the first phase. There are a lot of details to hammer out, but we’re open to it.”
The other major step for the project is of course how to pay for it all.
According to the Vision Plan, the “total package” is approximately $20.5 million — but Gilbert is quick to point out that that number includes over $18 million in new bridges and high-tech “green” elements like wind turbines and solar-powered art work.
For much less money, planners have estimated that a “phase one” package — which would include all the site furnishings, tree plantings, signage, and bike paths — could be done for only $2.3 million. Add one new I-205 overpass that would extend the existing pedestrian/bike bridge near Maywood Park and the cost is still only $3.8 million.
The next task for Gilbert is to drum up community support and bend the ear of potential private investors. He says he’s already got one generous commitment; “If we can guarantee a world-class facility, I have a private donor who will give us $1 million.”
Other funding sources might be Metro’s Nature in Neighborhoods program, which was carved out of their $260 million Natural Areas Bond Measure which was passed by voters in 2006.
Gilbert, who has become known for his commitment to “green” development in other projects, says he also hopes Gateway Green will inspire others. “If we can transform this space, there’s a lot of other land like this around the region…it could be an example.”
Community support will be a key factor in both getting ODOT to relinquish the land and to acquiring funding sources. On Thursday, Gilbert and Robinson will present the new Vision Plan to a group of stakeholders and a public bike ride/rally is likely to be planned at the site later in the summer.
Stay tuned for opportunities to get involved.
If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.
YES! A permanent cyclocross track practically out my back door (and I would no longer have to trespass to use it.) I\’m so on board. What can I do?
Wow, kind of like a Portland version of Colonnade (in Seattle) but way bigger/better and with multiple uses.
This needs to happen so bad! I\’m in total support. Definitely keep us updated on this one. We need more places like this everywhere but definitely in outer SE.
will look wildly forward to checking out the plan. i hope some form of greenway path might be in the works, as well? bike lanes on Halsey and Weidler, while spacious, could use some ambassadorial help in getting folks on bikes. actually, that\’s mostly justification. my mom and dad live out there, and they want someplace pretty in their neighborhood to ride!
w00t. Fingers AND toes crossed.
This sounds like it will be amazing. This park will be busy from day one. Nearby cafes & bike shops will certainly see an uptick in business.
Can\’t wait to see the details.
Maybe there will *be* nearby cafes and bike shops. 😉
The nearest bike shops currently are the Sandy Bike Gallery and Performance Bikes at Mall 205. Neither is exactly close.
Great project, though – hope it actually happens!
This would be great, especially with access to Rocky Butte. I\’ll definately look to help where I can!
Sounds great–let\’s take that 5.5 mil from the 405 bridge and get rolling–a much better use of $ in my opinion…
sounds like a great plan
I\’ve always thought the site would make a great place for cyclocross, I know some people that already train there
ps the closest bike shop is Gateway on Halsey
I have sister in parkrose area, and i dont\’ think they have ever been up to rocky butte, etc, simply because it is so inaccessible except by car. This should be great.
It would be a great fun area for kids to be free and ride !
There is lots of good stuff beyond bicycling in the plans for this parcel. Renewable energy demonstration areas for both solar and wind, stormwater treatment with wetlands, and major aesthetic upgrades.
For bikes, this would not only be an off road recreational destination, but for transportation cycling the bridges and paved trails would provide much needed connectivity. Still it is in the \”Big Hairy Audacious Goal\” stage
Between two freeways seems like it would be noisy for bird watchers. This is a great use of that parcel. The added connectivity would be huge. No commercial activity, does that mean it could not be used as a venue for racing? Gateway Bicycles is another LBS at about 119th and Halsey that I have been quite impressed with http://www.gatewaybicycles.com/contact.aspx
Eeeeeeeeeeeeeee! My heart just exploded in joy. What a fantastic vision! I really hope thing goes through. Are their drinking fountains in the plan? (water good!)
All I can say is WOW. and YAY. and AWESOME.
\”Are their drinking fountains in the plan? (water good!)\”
Of course! and restrooms too!
Mr. Gilbert also spoke about a community facility/building where he\’d like to see groups like the BTA teach basic biking skills.
Wow. What a fantastic idea. I sincerely hope this comes to pass.
Regarding bike shops in the area: don\’t forget the recently relocated Missing Link, now at 72nd and Sandy (approx, can\’t find actual addr. at the moment).
i wonder if there would be room to squeeze in a chicken coop or two…
I am sure that a chicken coop would be considered a liability, and probably pooh-poohed by ODOT.
This is a exciting project for all cyclists in Portland and especially for mountain bikers and cyclocross riders. As an avid mountain biker and board member of PUMP, I look forward to seeing the progress of this project. And hope to see great singletrack, freeride, and mountain bike skills park trails in the city of Portland.
I look forward to see the finalized proposal. I have thought that this site would make a great mtb area for many years now and I\’m glad to see that it may become a reality.
What ever did happen to plans for Sulivan\’s Gulch trail? The website has been the same for what seems like two years. Is this really going to happen?
I\’m trying not to get to excited. But wow, this is right by my house. I would be minutes from a bike mecca.
Please let there be a nice singletrack loop of decent length, I am tired of fire roads.
Portland could finally be a true biking city. My heart is swelling.
Anyone know who we can contact to express our support of such a project? Thanks in advance!
We need to send Mr. Gilbert a HUGE thank you. He is a forward thinker for sure. Cyclocross venue? Pump track? I could kiss the guy!!!
This is a great project and needed complement for the park-deficient Gateway Regional center. The connectivity to other trails and transit make the property and ideal location for expanding the park system for single-track and other mountain biking. Thanks for covering this so thoroughly Jonathan.
Much credit goes to Linda Robinson for quietly, patiently but persistently pushing this forward… and of course Ted Gilbert\’s enthusiasm.
Minor correction but the 2006 bond measure was 227.5 million. The Nature in Neighborhood Capital grant program is $15 million.
Hey Jim… I saw you on TV tonight at the SAM party.
Jonathan? What happened to your Election Night Coverage Post? I logged in this morning to see the rest of the comments from last night and the whole post is gone.
Congrats to Linda Robinson and Ted Glibert for this effort moving forward. I support it 100%
don\’t forget the missing link at 72nd and sandy blvd!
as a homeowner in this area who frequently rides the rocky butte trails… This is great news!
I\’ve summited the pavement on Rocky Butte many times not knowing that there was a dirt route. hickeymad#28, where might I find the trailhead(s)? Thanks.
How exciting to see the many positive responses to Jonathan\’s article about Gateway Green!
To express your support for the project, or to get involved, you can contact us Ted Gilbert at email@example.com or Linda Robinson at LRobinsPDX@comcast.net.
Thanks, Jonathan, for such a well-written article about the Gateway Green project.
Don\’t let your heart explode with excitement just yet. I\’ve been trying to get permission to use this venue for a Cross Crusade Race for ten years now and ODOT won\’t even return my calls. I have met with Ted and the Gateway Green Committee and will do whatever I can to support this. But ODOT won\’t budge until they are ready and no amount of pressure from the community will sway them one way or the other.
I agree with Linda Robinson that this feedback is very encouraging. We\’re going to want all of your help to bring this together. By the way, correction to my e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
What a great idea. We really need parks, greenspaces in the gateway area of east county. And Bike trails would be wonderful. There are not many places for those of us who have limited cycling skills and don\’t feel comfortable on the busy streeets in this area of Portland that is not particularly bike friendly. Please put me on your email list
fantastic idea, I am excited to get involved in this.
Rocky Butte trails…?
Someone, fill me in here. I have never heard of trails on Rocky Butte.
And yes, this sounds like a great plan! I hope ODOT gives it\’s blessing. Used this area many times for \’cross training (chased out once by a transit cop).