A Brief History of the Gateway Green Project

Ted Gilbert

Linda Robinson (photo by Jonathan Maus, bikeOregon.org)

Ted and Linda leading one of many tours of the Gateway Green site (photo by Steve Bryant)

For years, the citizen members of the Gateway Program Advisory Committee (the urban renewal advisory group also known as the “PAC”) sought to create more park and open space to complement the nascent Gateway Regional Center, but to no avail. 

Then, in 2005, Portland Realtor and fellow PAC member, Ted Gilbert, had a "crazy idea".  At the north end of the Gateway District lay 38 acres of underused land which was already connected to Gateway by a pedestrian bridge, and is already in public ownership.  He contacted the leadership of the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), which owned the property, and learned that if certain conditions could be met, they might be receptive to putting the property to a higher community purpose. 

Early in 2006, Ted shared the idea with a few fellow PAC colleagues, including community activist Linda Robinson, who immediately saw its potential.  A partnership was born. 

During the next two years, Ted and Linda worked quietly behind the scenes, learning more and networking with possible allies.  They strategized and made the rounds to neighborhood groups, elected officials, interest group experts and activists.  They commissioned a study:  a Site Inventory conducted by graduate students at Portland State University. 

In 2008, with permission from the land owner to create a Vision Plan for the property, the Gateway Green proposal went public.  After numerous public meetings with stakeholder groups, tours of the site, and a full-day charrette -- and with the help of David Evans and Associates, a planning and engineering firm based in Portland -- the Vision Plan was completed in May 2008. 

Among the valuable feedback obtained from these studies were the following discoveries:

  • In addition to Gateway being highly accessible (at the confluence of two interstate freeways, four light rail lines, and a main bicycle trail), the Gateway Green site is astonishingly visible.  The number of trips made through the site each year, using all modes of transportation, is approximately 65 million.
  • Because of the existing location of freeway stormwater conduits, southerly exposures, and prevailing wind patterns, the site lends itself to possible water quality, solar, and wind energy demonstration projects.
  • While Portland is recognized as a premiere American bike-friendly city, it offers a dearth of suitable off-road cycling opportunities for its booming population of off-road enthusiasts.
  • The Gateway Green site sits in the shadow of, and had once been connected to, Rocky Butte -- a historic, forested volcanic promontory immediately to the west.  The construction of the I-205 freeway had disconnected thousands of residents from this natural area.  The studies revealed that approximately 85 contiguous acres on Rocky Butte are still in public ownership, divided between five different public agencies.
  • A separate citizen-driven effort is already underway to build a pedestrian/bike trail along the I-84 freeway, connecting downtown Portland with the Gateway Green site, called the Sullivan’s Gulch Trail.

These studies, numerous meetings, and two subsequent design charrettes identified the primary opportunities for Gateway Green as:

  • A world-class venue for all forms of off-road cycling recreation, for neighbors and residents of the region to national events and bicycle tourism.
  • An iconic statement and demonstration of green technologies, and Portland’s and Oregon’s commitment to sustainability.
  • A powerful branding tool for Gateway, Portland, and Oregon.

Momentum has built to the point that, today, key stakeholders, including Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), Portland Parks and Recreation, Oregon State Parks, Metro and the City of Maywood Park have come together to achieve this vision.  Bicycle, environmental, and neighborhood groups are actively engaged and another key stakeholder group was created:  Friends of Gateway Green.  This is where you come in!