IF EVER A PATCH OF PAVEMENT could capture the multiple personalities of Portland’s past, present, and future, it would be the intersection of N Denver and N Interstate Avenues in the historic Kenton neighborhood. Here, a giant statue of Paul Bunyan stares down at the ramshackle all-nude roadhouse Dancin’ Bare while the Euro-futuristic cars of the MAX light-rail glide by. Kenton was home to Portland’s stockyards and the meatpacking titan Swift & Company in the early 1900s; legend has it that so many cattle were slaughtered in the neighborhood, the Columbia Slough ran red. Over the years, Kenton held fast to its gritty pioneer character (Exhibit A: The Bunyan statue), but minus pedestrian-friendly amenities like benches and crosswalks, its business district—the car-clogged N Denver Avenue—foundered, becoming perennially studded with vacant properties. But now the Portland Development Commission (PDC) is offering up a bundle of new business loans, plus $2.85 million for the Denver Streetscape Project, a six-month-long renovation set to begin in August. Here’s a preview of Kenton’s next incarnation.
Green Street Not only will N Denver Avenue’s sidewalks be widened from ten to fifteen feet and its three car lanes cut down to two, but by year’s end, the thoroughfare will be one of Portland’s first fully retrofitted green main streets. The pavement will be replaced with concrete, which retains less heat than asphalt, thus reducing cooling needs for adjacent businesses. Stormwater planters on every block will capture and sift runoff from the roads and sidewalks while adding a hint of street-level lushness.
New Business To encourage N Denver Avenue’s rebirth as an urban boutique district à la N Mississippi Avenue and NE Alberta Street, the PDC is subsidizing small-business loans. One early taker: Kenton resident Jessie Burke, who, in May, opened Posie’s Café (posiescafe.com), a charming coffee shop committed to supporting fellow local businesses. (She sells coffee from Ristretto Roasters, pastries from Florio on N Willamette Avenue, and wraps from White Girls Can Wrap.)
Paul Bunyan The mythological concrete-troweled lumberjack, who earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places this year, was built in 1959 for Oregon’s Centennial celebration and has since remained the icon of Kenton. He’ll stay put, but the plaza he stands in will soon be dressed up with trees, greenery, and seating.
Kenton Library Hennebery Eddy Architects has designed a new six-thousand-square-foot Multnomah County library branch, slated for completion in 2010, that will provide Kenton bibliophiles with a home. The neighborhood has lacked a library since its founding in 1909.
Mauricio Saldaña Sculpture Portland artist Mauricio Saldaña, a third-generation stone carver, will create a granite sculpture to stand at the corner of N Denver Avenue and Kilpatrick Street, as well as seven concrete-and-granite benches that will be planted along the corners of the street.