The City Repair Project, best known for facilitating community building through colorful neighborhood street paintings and cob structures in Portland's Eastside, is taking its first step into Old Town/Chinatown this year during its sixth annual Village Building Convergence (VBC6). VBC6 is a 10-day festival where neighbors and volunteers will redesign 30 urban spaces and create community-oriented places. |
If there's enough interest at the first VBC6 evening meeting, there is likely to be a demonstration project "taking our ideas to the streets," said Sally Noble, organizer of The Old Town/Chinatown Public Toilet Project, and veteran City Repair Project volunteer.
After a 20-year struggle for more restrooms in Old Town/Chinatown, this most recent drive appears to be mobilizing support from key city leaders, including Mayor Tom Potter and City Commissioner Erik Sten, said Noble. "Doors just keep opening," she added. "I'm constantly amazed."
The City Repair Project is on course to construct a "pilot" restroom with volunteer help next year during VBC7, Noble said. The timing will take advantage of a spring 2007 TriMet bus mall revitalization that could integrate the restroom facility into the renovation.
This year's VBC6 is following the heels of extensive research into public toilet best practice and advocacy by a six-member committee of the Old Town/ Chinatown Neighborhood Association that goes by the name of Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human (PHLUSH). The group has received research support by a Portland State graduate student group called Relief Works.
In April, PHLUSH proposed six public toilet designs to the Old Town/Chinatown Neighborhood Association. Options included self-cleaning restrooms that cost $250,000 each and artist inspired mosaic toilets. The neighborhood association favored a concept designed by The City Repair Project's founder Mark Lakeman that includes an attached news stand business and public bulletin board. The local place-making nonprofit will work with the local community to further refine the toilet design at the two public meetings during VBC6.
"It's what needs to happen," said Mike Kuykendall, vice president of downtown services and Central City for the Portland Business Alliance. "Great idea to get public input and support for this."
In 2005, the Portland Business Alliance's Clean and Safe program received 3,000 calls for cleaning up human waste in downtown. Old Town, where many of Portland's homeless people reside, accounted for 75 percent of the calls. "We think public toilets would do a lot to alleviate that situation," Kuykendall said. Only one public restroom is open at night in the Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood and other facilities may be difficult to access, especially if you appear to be homeless, said Nikki Jardin, Operations Manager of Sisters of the Road Cafe. "I could talk myself into any restroom," said Jardin, a member of the PHLUSH committee. "If you look like you're homeless you're going to be stopped by security guards at the train station."
Jardin eagerly awaits City Repair's crossing of the bridge into Old Town/ Chinatown, and is hopeful that the collaboration will lead to a "fun, funky piece of art that's user friendly."
Eric and Kris Robison, owners of the Backspace Internet Cafe, are offering their new performance art lounge, Someday, for the VBC6 Old Town/Chinatown events. For more information contact website (soon to be active) at http://www.cityrepair.org/phlush
About The City Repair Project
The City Repair Project is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that focuses on creating public gathering places and helping others to creatively transform the places where they live. City Repair's work is born out of the idea that localization (of culture, of economy, of decision-making) is a necessary foundation of a sustainable society. By reclaiming urban spaces to create community-oriented places, The City Repair Project plants the seeds for greater neighborhood communication, empowering of communities and nurturing of local culture. For more information, see http://www.cityrepair.org/.
About the Village Building Convergence
The City Repair Project's flagship annual event is the Village Building Convergence, an annual 10-day festival that offers hands-on learning experiences in sustainable design, natural building, alternative energy sources, permaculture, and consensus-based decision processes. This year over 30 communities in Portland are engaged in exciting projects that will transform urban spaces into community places, including development of intersection paintings, community kiosks, and edible landscaping on city sidewalks. For more information, see http://vbc.cityrepair.org.