“I think you should add some color to the whiteness that’s in it.”
— John Washington, Historic Albina Advisory Group member
The Oregon Department of Transportation has shifted the marketing of their controversial I-5 Rose Quarter project into high gear. At a project advisory board meeting Tuesday, a consultant released versions of new logos as part of a rebranding effort.
The meeting came just one day after a trio of environmental justice groups announced a lawsuit against the project, which seeks to widen I-5 through the same location where it decimated a well-established Black neighborhood in the 1960s. ODOT says they planned the rebrand before the lawsuit dropped, but the project faced rough seas long before that.
Tuesday’s meeting was for the Historic Albina Advisory Board, a group that set up after ODOT shut down its predecessor when members threatened to walk away because they said ODOT had failed to listen to their concerns.
Asked to explain the reason for the rebranding effort when it was first made public in early February, an ODOT project staffer told us, “The rebranding is an effort to better understand how we are showing up in communities.”
Before discussion of the rebrand started, the project’s Executive Steering Committee Chair (and Vice-Chair of the Oregon Transportation Commission) Alando Simpson addressed members in what appeared to be an attempt to help them understand the lawsuit.
Simpson didn’t mention the lawsuit by name but it was clearly on his mind. He urged members to be patient with ODOT and “trust the process.” “[ODOT] is a 5,000 person agency,” he said. “So as much as we want to change overnight, that’s not realistic and that’s not practical.”
Simpson, who owns Rose City Disposal and Recycling, made his opinion clear: Any delay of the freeway expansion project will hurt the economic and job-creation prospects of Black business owners.
“I don’t think it’s necessary that we try to delay the project to force it to go through another environmental, rigorous review when we have an opportunity right in front of us. There is an estimated $100 million that is going to go back into the hands of a black-owned construction firm. Period. It’s one of the largest, if not the largest contract ever issued to a black-owned civil engineering firm in our entire country. That is transformation… this is the bigger conversation we have to focus on… Delaying a process like this, with that kind of opportunity on the table… wouldn’t be the most logical thing for us to do, especially in a moment when everybody seems to believe Black Lives Matter.”
Simpson made his remarks at the outset of the meeting to try and steady the course and reassure advisory board members that the project is important and has forward momentum — despite the rising volume of its critics.
The rebranding effort is being made with similar intentions.
A consultant hired by ODOT to design and implement the new brand told committee members the current brand works fine for a transportation project, but it no longer fits, “After the shift of the project to restorative justice and equity for Black Portlanders.”
During one moment in her presentation, the consultant was interrupted by an unknown voice who didn’t realize they were unmuted (listen to it below).
“The purpose of the whole new brand is for the community and the Historic Albina Advisory Board members to be profiled…,” the consultant said.
“Profiled?! Holy shit!” interjected a man’s voice.
After a few seconds of silence, the consultant apologized and continued her presentation
The new logo that was preferred by committee members is called “Bloom”. It’s a rose with inset silhouettes of two faces. “The bloom of Albina symbolizes the blossoming of a revitalized Historic Albina to inspire community connectivity and outcomes with the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project.”
The bloom design was strongly supported by the committee, with just one quibble from Soul District Business Association rep John Washington. “I think you should add some color to the whiteness that’s in it. You might want to shade it or put some kind of color in there,” he suggested.
In related project news, there’s a big rally planned tomorrow at Harriet Tubman Middle School to raise support for the lawsuit. Get full details on the BP calendar.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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