Portland pushed drugs, crime and gangs out of a public park by putting on exercise classes, concerts and other activities designed to attract families. Portland Parks & Recreation partnered with the owner of a local mall, who provided funding for revitalisation, and a specialist firm that had worked on Bryant Park in New York. The park attracts 30,000 people each month.
Results & Impact
Once a hotspot for drugs, gangs and crime, Holladay Park was once avoided by people living in northeast Portland. Soon after the pilot project began, crime dropped and some 30,000 people were visiting the park monthly. The percentage of women and children in the park rose by 9% from July 2014 to July 2015. Previous attempts to clean up the park had failed
Portland Parks and Recreation, Cypress Equities
Cypress Equities, which owns a local mall, provided funding for a public-private partnership to revitalise the area. The partners hired Biederman Redevelopment Ventures to develop programming like yoga and Zumba classes, a free library, ping pong, concerts, café tables and a communal piano. PP&R contributed urban park specialists to design activities as well as staff to run them
Cost & Value
The Lloyd Centre contributed $430,000 in startup costs
Running since 2014
The biggest challenge is maintaining the park's image as safe after minor incidents like vandalism. The consistent presence of Portland Parks & Recreation staff and rangers helps assure people that they are safe at Holladay
The project was partly modelled on the revitalisation of Bryant Park in New York, which was once a hotspot for crime and is now a venue for the city's fashion week. There, too, the emphasis was on making the park safe for women and children
Portland drove drugs, crime and gangs out of a park by bringing in programming designed to attract women and children.
“Children and families have been the first to come back. People comment saying ‘Thank you for reclaiming our park; thank you for making it safe for us to come back,’” said Alicia Hammock, PP&R’s Urban Parks Supervisor, who said crime has dropped “noticeably” in Holladay Park since the initiative began.
Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) partnered with Cypress Equities, the owner of neighbourhood shopping mall Lloyd Centre, to revitalise the 4.3-acre park. Cypress hired Biederman Redevelopment Ventures (BRV), an urban planning firm best known for making over New York’s Bryant Park – once a hotspot for crime; now centre of the city’s world-renowned Fashion Week. BRV’s plan for Holladay was modelled after its successful Bryant Park revitalisation, which aimed to make women and children feel safe in the park.
BRV found that Holladay needed significant capital improvements and operational changes. Cypress, which saw the value of the park as an amenity for the Lloyd Centre, contributed $430,000 in startup costs, which included two pilot projects, consultancy fees, equipment and supplies, insurance and administration.
“If Parks had been able to finance it, we would have done it on our own – but we couldn’t. The public-private partnership has been so wonderful in terms of consistency of funding, and the collective decision process makes it feel like more of a community,” said Hammock. Before the partnership with Cypress Equities, PP&R tried a number of unsuccessful park improvements aimed at chasing out crime, including increased lighting, pruning, turf recovery and better sight lines.
BRV, Cypress and PP&R launched a $45,000 park pilot project in the summer of 2014. They brought in exercise classes like yoga and Zumba, a free library, ping pong, foosball, café tables and a communal piano. They planned concerts every Wednesday night and Friday afternoon of the season. PP&R contributed urban park specialists to design programming suited to the community’s needs and staff to man the activities.
The pilot project was extended through fall and winter of 2014 with different programming, at a cost of $88,500.
Prior to the pilot, local business leaders and suburban shoppers begged PP&R to revitalise the park. It was keeping visitors out of the neighbourhood, and people were afraid to walk even walk through Holladay. Often, the only people in the park were homeless.
In the second month of the pilot project (August 2014), 30,091 people visited the park. The percentage of women and children in the park rose by 9% from July 2014 to July 2015.
Despite the success of the pilot project, the park still faces minor problems like vandalism. Fixtures have been graffitied, a book cart was torched, locks and tarps were stolen and a concrete ping pong table was overturned and broken.
“The primary challenge throughout the project is the continuing perception of safety in the park by adjacent businesses and their workers. Each time an incident happens in the park or the neighbouring vicinity, program attendance decreases for one to two weeks,” said Hammock.
Hammock said that “consistency” has been the answer to ensuring people return: “People realise that regardless of what’s happening, we’re there. Over the past two and a half summers, people have built a bond with the staff and park rangers.”
Other Portland green spaces, like Pioneer Square and Director Park, have also successfully turned to the private sector for revitalisation projects.
(Picture credit: Flickr/mar-elisavet)