Foster’s neon lights inspire greenway improvement project

Posted by on May 11th, 2018 at 3:08 pm

Unlikely inspiration for tactical urbanism.
(Images: Michael Geffel)

Michael Geffel had a novel inspiration behind his idea to connect the Center Street and Gladstone Street Neighborhood Greenways in southeast Portland: Neon lights.

A landscape architect and visiting professor at University of Oregon’s School of Architecture and Environment by day, Geffel’s idea is to use art to improve these greenways while creating safer streets and a stronger community identity.

His “Foster is Neon” project (PDF below) came together initially as an entrant into PBOT’s Portland in the Streets Community Grant program. Geffel and other supporters of his project wanted to improve wayfinding and safety between SE 52nd and 62nd, where the greenways meet in a confusing, zig-zagging mess. Not only is the route hard to follow, it also crosses SE Foster Road, a high-speed arterial. Geffel’s inspiration came from the many neon signs that still dot Foster corridor businesses like George Morlan Plumbing Supply, Mt. Scott Fuel, Devil’s Point, and others.

180119 Portland in the Streets Proposal Concept - DIGITAL

In building support for the grant proposal, many other residents got behind it and the project took on a life of its own. Last April it received a $2,200 grant from SE Uplift (via the Creston-Kenilworth Neighborhood Association) to embark on the project, albeit with a slightly different focus. “We are now focusing this year’s efforts on a community-based design process to develop a shared vision for the greenway from 82nd to the Orange Line,” Geffel shared via email this week.

Geffel says the community will look at cycling and walking safety but also larger issues like housing equity, green infrastructure, and community identity. “We’ll be looking at the potential for SE Francis to become a greenway from Creston K-8 to SE 28th, which is currently operating as a cut-through but also runs adjacent to many subsidized and affordable multi-family apartments that house some of south east’s most vulnerable residents,” Geffel added.


(Michael Geffel)

Geffel now sees an opportunity to integrate aspects of his project to the upcoming construction of the Foster Road Streetscape project.

In order to garner more input and ideas from the community, a series of workshops and design charettes hosted by the Creston-Kenilworth and Foster Powell Neighborhood Associations have been scheduled between now and June:

Tuesday, May 8th – Creston K-8 – Project intro/recruitment (6:50-7:05)
Monday, May 14th – Foster Powell NA – Project intro/recruitment (7:30-7:45)
Monday, May 21st – Creston Kenilworth NA – Project update/recruitment (7:30-ish)
Tuesday, May 22nd – Holgate Library – Design Charette (2:45 – 3:45)
Tuesday, May 22nd – Firland Apartments – Design Charette (6:30 – 7:30)
Tuesday, May 29th – Kateri Park – Design Charette (3:00-4:00) NOT CONFIRMED
Tuesday, May 29th – Creston K-8 – Design Charette & Next Steps (6:00-8:00)

*The second round will take place during the last two weeks in June. That location is TBD but candidates are the Carts on Foster or Foster Burger since Creston k-8 won’t be available after school is out.

These workshops will culminate with a block party during the Second Saturday Art Walk on Foster in September where the neighborhood will host an intersection painting project. It will be the first of what could be many more pieces of street art aimed at making these greenways something the community can be proud of.

For more information, stay tuned to the Creston-Kenilworth Neighborhood Association.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and

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Jim Lee
Jim Lee

Much better than anything PBOT has done for my neighborhood.

John Liu
John Liu

It would be expensive, but colored concrete would make a durable pattern.


Only necessary because the routes are so convoluted and non-intuitive. PBOT fail.


“between SE 52nd and 62nd, where the greenways meet in a confusing, zig-zagging mess”

this is certainly the worst section as you’re constantly having to slow to a near stop to see if cross traffic is coming and ensure you’re turning the correct way to catch the continuation of Center…

I rarely take this route as there are better east-west streets that aren’t greenways when you’re going just a couple blocks north or south on Foster or 52nd…


I’m several blocks away but somebody drove through the neighborhood today with studded tires on their car… not much ice lately…

rachel b
rachel b

Encaustic cement tile! We’d need a billionaire to donate. But it would be fabulous. 🙂


It gets extended to April 15th practically every other year. The snow season in the mountains is often not quite over by the end of March. Some years we’re still building snowpack at that time.