By Nancy Tannler
On one of the last hot Fridays of summer, the Hawthorne Pop Up Plaza and World PARK(ing) Day were celebrated at SE 37th Ave. and Hawthorne Blvd. A portion of the street was turned into a mini park and public gathering place with live music, games, beverages, conversation and information.
PARK(ing) Day is an annual worldwide event where citizens, artists and activists collaborate to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into public places. PDX Main Streets partnered with Hawthorne Blvd. Business Association (HBBA) and Sustainable Southeast Community Coalition (S2C2) to make this event happen. The festivities of the day were a glimpse of the vision for what a plaza in the heart of the Hawthorne district might look like.
It was also an opportunity for Heather Flint Chatto, owner of Forage Design + Planning and volunteer for PDX Main Streets, to promote the $46,000 Venture Portland grant she secured for the HBBA for The Kiosk Project. This money will be used to install a Neri vintage-style kiosk and solar incubator somewhere on SE’s most iconic Main Street. The “Little Sunshine” kiosk at the WeShine transitional village on NE 125th Ave. and Halsey St. was the first pilot kiosk project.
The Kiosk Project on Hawthorne will be built by Neri North America. They have agreed to build the Hawthorne kiosk for the amount of the grant, which is a reduced cost, in order to demonstrate how they will look and function here in Portland.
Revitalizing Portland’s 50 unique business districts has been a challenge for the civic leaders in our city. Since the pandemic and the 100 days of protest that began in 2020, Portland has struggled to overcome the bad press, fear and ennui caused by these events. Downtown and business districts suffered financially from the lack of tourism, the withdrawal of the work force and loss of local support.
Small businesses are beginning to thrive again thanks to Portlanders who like getting together to celebrate and support their neighborhoods. This became evident by the overwhelming response to Venture Portland’s Major Impact Grants program asking for ideas to enhance business districts.
Venture Portland received $250,000 thanks to the American Rescue Plan Act, the largest grant they have ever administered. They were able to award grants ranging from $25,000 to $50,000 to six recipients: Central Eastside Industrial Council, Gateway Mural Project; HBBA, Kiosk and Solar Incubator Hub; Historic Mississippi Ave. Business Association, staffing; NW Industrial Business Association, staffing and district development; Old Town Community Association, Chinese Lantern Project and Williams Vancouver Business Association, Evening Light District Project.
Venture Portland has represented neighborhood business districts since 1986, promoting local, regional, national and international demand for goods and services. These districts make up a majority of the city’s businesses and nearly half of its jobs.
At the Hawthorne Pop Up Plaza event, Flint Chatto discussed the advantages of kiosks. She showed renderings of the design and explained some of the ways they can enhance community building.
Flint Chatto referenced the book, Urban Acupuncture, by Jaime Lerner, as a way to understand the significance of small “pinpricks” of urbanism. “Even something as small as a kiosk can have a radiating effect on life in the surrounding city,” Flint Chatto said.
The Kiosk Project is already taking shape as people begin to weigh in on what they hope the kiosk could be used for. Some of the suggestions are for charging stations, informational displays, emergency preparedness locations, wayfinding markers and gateways, gathering centers, rest rooms, art installations and small business incubators.
Most importantly, the design of a kiosk represents a safe gathering place. It also brings a sense of culture to urban environments. An example of this can be found in the city of Lisbon, Portugal.
In the early 1900s there were over 100 quiosques de refrescos (refreshment kiosks) there; they were the heart of public life in the city. Under the dictatorship of Prime Minister António de Oliveira Salazar, which started in the 1930s, laws actually discouraged public gathering and conversation; the kiosks fell into disrepair and all but disappeared.
Catarina Portas, a native of Lisbon, said in an interview with NPR that, “From the 19th to the 20th century, there were some hundred different kiosks in Lisbon. The city was full of them in different colors, different designs.” She teamed up with an architect to bring these beautiful Moorish design structures back to their former glory. Their first three kiosks opened in 2009.
Since then they have restored many more of these unique architectural wonders to the city. They have proved to be a great success in returning prominence to Lisbon’s public spaces. See them bit.ly/SeeLisbonKiosks.
This fall, five different neighborhoods and business districts, PBOT and local property owners, will begin working with PSU architecture professor Lisa Young to ensure they choose the right location for The Kiosk Project. For more information, visit pdxmainstreets.org/kioskdesign.