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American Society of Landscape Architects


March 2006 Issue

A Gem of a Park in Portland’s Cultured Pearl
An innovative master plan and its first park set an optimistic course.

By George Hazelrigg, ASLA

A Gem of a Park in Portland.s Cultured Pearl Peter Walker and Partners

It’s a hot day early in August in Portland’s Pearl District neighborhood. Little more than a decade ago the scene of abandoned rail yards, littered lots, and aging brick warehouses, the area has more recently been undergoing a major transformation. Now it’s a high-density, mixed-use urban neighborhood highlighted by a steady wave of new and planned lofts, condos, and apartment buildings, many with enticing ground-floor restaurants, galleries, and retail shops. Construction is everywhere as the district’s reoccupation carefully moves northward to meet the Willamette River’s edge (see “Pearl of Wisdom,” Landscape Architecture, April 2002).

At Jamison Square Park, which has become a centerpiece of the new district, people begin arriving midmorning. Children and parents in growing numbers engage the park’s signature water feature and spread out on the surrounding lawn. Occupants of nearby offices and shops pause at lunchtime to occupy streetside benches, observing what one Portland writer dubbed a “mini-Coney Island,” complete with one lone hot dog vendor. By late afternoon, one of the periodic summer concerts staged at the park was in full swing while several local artists displayed their works along the park’s perimeter. Jamison Square Park is a performance space, a hip park in a hip neighborhood that draws visitors from throughout the city.

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