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New setting for Jade District


Temporary space at 82nd and Division is community hub

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Ronell Manguino, middle, celebrates a win in a friendly competition during the APANO Ally of Social Justice Bootcamp graduation last week.In late June, dozens of residents gathered in Southeast Portland for Tell It Slant, a monthly reading series for writers to share stories about their experiences with gentrification and dual identity.

Just as significant as the topic was the location of the event: A community space on Southeast 82nd Avenue and Division Street, the heart of what’s known as the Jade District.

“There’s always some other space, but it wouldn’t have the same impact,” says Todd Struble, an attorney who serves as the Jade District manager at the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon.

In December, Jade District leaders and groups began using the space — a long-vacant furniture store with the “furniture” sign in neon letters still out front — as their own site for events like taiko drumming, community forums and art-filled placemaking activities like the reading series.

The space is affectionately known as “JAMS,” an acronym for Jade APANO Multicultural Space.

But as valuable as the space is, it’s only temporary.

The Jade District moved in after Metro’s Transit-Oriented Development Program — which invests in properties and developments near transit — purchased the half-acre site, including the 8,000 square-foot building that sits on it.

“When we heard they were going to purchase it ... instead of fencing it off and leaving it vacant while they put out plans to redevelop it, which would take a year and a half or two years, we asked if we could use it,” Struble says. “They were on board with our organization.”

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - The vacant furniture store at Southeast 82nd Avenue and Division Street sits at the heart of the Jade District, and is now being used as a temporary community center.So for the time being, until they find another suitable space, “We’re trying to make it as visible as possible — to show the need for it,” Struble says. “We’ve already had so many requests for people to use it.”

The Jade District is a grassroots effort that started in 2011, as the Portland Development Commission designated it as a Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative.

APANO took over a contract to support the district in 2013.

Last July, the Jade District’s steering committee produced a vision report for their 12-block area.

It includes feedback garnered from six community workshops between April and June 2014; artist renderings of envisioned streetscapes; and specific ideas for transportation and park improvements to make a more pedestrian-safe and business-friendly environment.

The .91-square-mile area includes 432 businesses including the Fubonn Shopping Center, an indoor shopping mall of Asian-Pacific Islander businesses. Nearly half of the district’s residents are people of color.

At this point, Struble says, the Oregon Department of Transportation has installed pedestrian islands by the PCC campus on 82nd Avenue, which is designated as one of the city’s top 10 High Crash Corridors.

“We’re pleased to see that,” Struble says. “We think it’s part of the solution, but not the end of it.”

International Night Market

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Notes of appreciation are stuffed into fellow campers envelopes during graduation of the APANO Ally of Social Justice Bootcamp.One of the biggest efforts the Jade District has undertaken is their Night Market.

Last year, 20,000 people came to the Jade District International Night Market’s four inaugural events, in August and September.

Back for a second year, organizers decided to combine it into two Saturday events — Aug. 15 and Aug. 22 — but in a larger space than the Fubonn Shopping Center parking lot.

“It was really cramped last year, especially with parking,” Struble says. “We want to make sure there’s enough space for comfort, but still maintain the feel of a night market.”

This year’s location will be the Portland Community College Southeast Portland Campus at 2335 S.E. 82nd Ave, blocking Division off between Southeast 80th and 82nd avenues with room for twice as many vendors and attendees.

They’re now accepting applications for vendors, with room for about 80.

In addition to food and retail vendors, plans are underway for a beer garden, mini farmers market, live entertainment, kids activities and more.

“We’re trying to emphasize the international characteristics of our neighborhood,” Struble says. “We have multi-ethnic, multicultural food and retail vendors from around the world.”

While the Night Market creates an authentic experience found nowhere else in Portland, “the message is also that these restaurants, these businesses are out here year-round,” Struble says.