There is an aerial plan of the park in today's paper too!
What should it cost to name a park?
Park Block 5 - Though it's only one-quarter of building costs, a potential donor's $1.5 million could be enough
Monday, February 12, 2007
Only a handful of Portland's history makers have had what it takes to get their names on any of the city's public parks.
The cost of entry for the likes of Capt. John Couch and Daniel Lownsdale has always been land, or in the case of Dr. DeNorval Unthank, civic service.
But with Park Block 5, downtown's first new park since Pioneer Courthouse Square 23 years ago, the price of a name could be cash: $1.5 million.
Welcome to the latest plot turn in the twisty historic drama of Park Block 5. Platted by Portland's founders as a park, it nearly became the city's tallest garage until Tom Moyer stepped in: buying the land, putting the parking underground and letting the city build a park on top.
Now short $2.4 million of the park's $6 million price tag, the Bureau of Parks & Recreation has found a potential donor for some of the money. The question is, can the Parks Bureau and its nonprofit partner, the Portland Parks Foundation, close the deal with the donor -- and get Mayor Tom Potter's support for the rest of the money?
Last month, Park Block 5's citizen steering committee picked its preferred design. With world-renowned landscape architect Laurie Olin, the local design team has envisioned the park -- located across from the Fox Tower -- with glassy structures, a fountain, food vendor and what would be downtown's largest permanent outdoor canopy.
The private gift for nearly half the cost by the so-far-unnamed donor would be the largest cash donation in Portland parks history. Naming the park for the donor, according to Linda Laviolette, executive director of the Parks Foundation, "would be in the great tradition of our parks -- Chapman, Lownsdale, Terwilliger -- they're all named for people."
But like many cash-strapped parks bureaus across the country, Portland's Bureau of Parks & Recreation is searching for the line between cheap date and wallflower when it comes to donations and sponsorships.
Two large, recent gifts represent the ends of Portland's current spectrum, according to Robin Grimwade, the Parks Bureau's head of strategic planning. Columbia Sportswear's commitment of $100,000 per year for 10 years for maintenance and new facilities for Sellwood Park earned it a small bronze plaque. With a donation of $2.2 million worth of new surfaces to the Parks Bureau's basketball courts, Nike got to put its trademark Swoosh in the middle of each one.
Finding a balance
In a new draft policy on naming (the bureau is currently soliciting public comments at http://tinyurl.com/24o64w)
, the bar for park facility naming is set at either a donation of the majority of the land or 60 percent of the capital costs or the endowment of a park's long-term maintenance and programming.
"When you have an opportunity like this, you don't want to quibble too much," said historian Chet Orloff, the chairman of Park Block 5's public steering committee, about the $1.5 million gift. "When it's a fraction of what's necessary, but it's enough to get over the hump, what do you do?"
Despite saving the land from becoming a high-rise garage, donating his subgrade garage's roof for the park and giving $1 million in cash, parks officials say Moyer agreed to relinquish his naming rights. The new donor's contribution would be 41 percent of the park's $3.6 million pipes-and-concrete construction cost. But Laviolette says if Moyer agrees to allow his gift to be counted as part of the overall "donation," the 60 percent test for naming would be met.
Moyer's granddaughter, Vanessa Sturgeon, referred all questions to the Parks Foundation.
Even with the gift, a gap of $875,000 still remains. Without it, that number rises to $2.375 million. No other source has yet been found for either amount.
Already budgeting more than $20 million for repairs and new facilities next year, the citizens' advisory committee overseeing the Parks Bureau's budget decided that, as a downtown project benefiting property owners, developers and retailers, the money should come from the general fund. City Commissioners Erik Sten and Dan Saltzman have made a request for the $875,000 to come from the city's $22.5 million surplus. Now Potter makes the call.
Orloff, Parks Foundation President Randy Sell and representatives of the Portland Business Alliance and the Portland Downtown Neighborhood Association haven't succeeded in getting a mayoral audience. Mayor sits on fence
Potter has been briefed, according to spokesman John Doussard, but hasn't taken a position.
Meantime, there is $300,000 that could narrow the gap, left over from a much older twist in Park Block 5's long, Perils-of-Pauline plot.
When Moyer saved the block from becoming a high-rise garage, he and former Mayor Neil Goldschmidt hatched a grand scheme to acquire all five of the "missing Park Blocks" between Southwest Taylor and Ankeny streets that had fallen into private hands.
The duo formed the Park Blocks Foundation. Moyer bought several more parcels. Developer Joe Weston pledged a building he owned in one of the blocks Such prominent Portlanders as John Gray and Harold and Arlene Schnitzer donated a total of $300,000 to the cause.
Unwilling sellers, City Hall's ambivalence toward the project and revelations of Goldschmidt's sexual abuse of a teenage girl while mayor stalled the project.
Last month, Moyer drove a stake through its heart, buying one of the missing Park Blocks but then unveiling a proposal to build the city's fourth-tallest building -- the 35-story Park Avenue West -- on it.
That building will rise across the street from Park Block 5.
The Park Blocks Foundation's president, Jim Westwood, had just begun conversations about donating its remaining cash to Park Block 5 but suspended them after Moyer hatched his tower.
"It came as a thunderbolt," Westwood said. "We may still give the money, but I personally think that Tom (Moyer) is benefiting so much from Park Block 5, he should step up with more."
Randy Gragg: 503-221-8575; email@example.com