Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sabin Triangle expedition

Sabin Triangle
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Today's adventure in Obscure Places Around Town takes us to the Sabin Triangle, the weird concrete area at the corner of NE 15th & Prescott, in inner NE Portland. It seems that, a century ago or so, this spot was once the terminus of a streetcar line from downtown. When streetcar service ended, the now-surplus land was paved over as if it was just an extra-wide sidewalk, and became an awkward and poorly maintained public space. It was also said to attract drugs, crime, and all sorts of urban ills, which is to say it reflected the surrounding neighborhood at the time. Now that the area's rapidly gentrifying, a sketchy-looking spot like this lowers the tone and affects property values. It just isn't going to cut it anymore, and there's a neighborhood project in the works to redesign the triangle as a modern pocket park. Construction hasn't started yet, so these are 'before' photos. So, I suppose, people can stumble across this little blog post years from now and have a chuckle about the Bad Old Days and how bad they were.

Sabin Triangle

Since I just mentioned gentrification, anyone who reads this humble blog regularly is probably expecting a grumpy, snarky rant right about now. The thing that's stopping me is that this is a neighborhood volunteer project, not something handed down from on high by City Hall or the Portland Development Commission. I do have to roll my eyes a bit, though, because this one has all the trappings of a stereotypical upscale Portland Thing: design charettes, architecture nonprofits, earnest local engineering students looking to change the world, etcetera. I suspect a project sponsored by neighborhood churches or the local NAACP chapter would maybe not attract the same level of praise and media attention.

Sabin Triangle

None of the articles I've read have explained who's responsible for maintaining the space once it's renovated. Which is kind of a big deal. Even the current design would be somewhat less unattractive if someone was maintaining it regularly, planting plants in planters, pulling weeds, removing grass growing through cracks in the sidewalk, basic stuff like that. It's not an official city park, so I suppose the work's going to fall on the local neighborhood association, and thus on neighborhood volunteers. So this year, golden. Next year, golden. Five years from now, maybe still golden. Twenty-five years from now, who knows?

Sabin Triangle

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