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Sometimes a clearer idea of a neighborhood's needs comes from outside than inside the community

DAVID F. ASHTON - PSU Masters students Shannon Williams, Olivia Holden, Shannon Williams, Laura Combs, Olivia Holden, and Samuel Garcia say theyre confident that their work will serve as a guide to improvements in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood. After months of working in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood, listening, engaging, and developing a "Community Assessment Plan", a group of graduating students in the Masters in Urban and Regional Planning program at Portland State University (PSU) shared their findings with the community on Thursday evening, June 1.

Some 25 people were in attendance at the Brentwood Darlington Community Center to hear recommendations intended to promote a more livable and inclusive future for the neighborhood.

"It's called the 'Brentwood-Darlington Neighborhood Assessment and Action Plan'," revealed Andrea Pastor, one of the PSU students engaged in this "Capstone Project" as the last step before PSU graduation.

The group of six students began working on the project in January, because their "client" – the Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability (BPS) – had pointed out that Brentwood-Darlington's last neighborhood assessment had been done in 1992.

"BPS asked us to begin engaging the community on a variety of topics, including infrastructure, transportation, housing, and economic development," Pastor said. "We talked with students and families at Woodmere and Whitman elementary and Lane Middle School, and did a lot of focus groups with a variety of people.

"We made a point of doing workshops and focus groups with renters, who are sometimes overlooked part of this population," she added.

Several notable challenges were uncovered, including:

· Decreasing affordability  this traditionally a very affordable place to live is becoming less so, catching up with home prices across Portland

· Infrastructure deficits  more sidewalks and improved roads are desired

· Economic development needed  might it be possible to create a Neighborhood Business District along S.E. 52nd Avenue, potentially opening the area to economic development grants or programs from Prosper Portland  formerly known as the Portland Development Commission.

"Also of interest was information that came out when we dug into the history of the neighborhood," remarked team member Amanda Howell. "Especially seeing how Brentwood-Darlington has long had an effective neighborhood association, for example, leading to the development of Harney Park, Haseltine Park, and to the Metro sidewalk grants."

After the presentation, attendees provided feedback on their process to help the students further refine their final product, while considering whether this PSU graduation project might actually become a blueprint for a better neighborhood.

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