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Nature in Neighborhoods grants: urban transformation

Grants    Nature in Neighborhoods capital grants    Urban transformation

Who says nature can’t be at home along a freeway, at a light-rail station or outside a medical campus?

Work party along the I-205 trail

Greening Interstate 205

Often, urban transformations feel far removed from the natural world. Busy roads and big buildings evoke images of gray, not green.

But, as Nature in Neighborhood grant recipients are showing, a little creativity and determination can go a long way toward weaving nature into the most urban development and infrastructure projects. Just ask cyclists and runners enjoying thousands of plantings along Interstate 205, or commuters who will experience the region’s first green park-and-ride.

Urban redevelopment brings people together in unique ways, including organizations that don’t typically collaborate. Although these projects tend to have the biggest price tags, they also have some of the biggest benefits for their communities.

Case study

Metro grant helps concrete alley in Cornelius become a ribbon of green

Alley in Cornelius

Green Alley, $322,000

Recipient: Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center

Partners: City of Cornelius, Adelante Mujeres, Centro Cultural, Verde, Jackson Bottoms Wetlands Preserve

Rising from methodically piled heaps of steel and cement, an informal parking lot and alley in downtown Cornelius is being transformed into a full-service medical campus – complemented with a green ribbon of a walkway, funded by a Metro Nature in Neighborhoods capital grant.

Salvaged building materials will go back into a modernized Virginia Garcia Wellness Center on the lot, replacing the converted home and garage in which the center was housed. While allowing more patients to be seen throughout the year, the new campus is also designed to more efficiently achieve the center’s longstanding goal: providing healthcare and wellness education to uninsured and low-income families.

A crumbling alleyway runs east to west through the lot. Devoid of much green aside from a pair of unhealthy trees, the blacktop path has been an eyesore and walking hazard for years. But plans to reinvigorate the walkway needed a concept and capital.

Scott Edwards Architecture provided the vision, and the Metro grant provided part of the funding.

"It’s going to be incredible," said Michele Horn, foundation relations officer for Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center. "We envision the space as a gathering place, not just for patients but for the community. We really see this as a community enhancement."

The block-long path will soon be outfitted with permeable pavers, a dozen benches, 16 native trees and as many as 2,500 new plants and shrubs. The architects will also work with Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve to create new interpretive signs that teach passersby about the bioswales and water-saving features on campus.

"We wanted to look at the bigger picture of how a building contributes to the water environment in the area and how it can have a positive impact," Horn explained.

The Virginia Garcia Foundation worked with Richard Meyer, Cornelius' development and operations director, on the application that secured the $322,000 Nature in Neighborhoods capital grant. He praised the greenway project as a model for how the city hopes to revitalize three adjacent blocks of alleyway on both sides of the property.

"It’s what the community has wanted for some time," Meyer said. "We’re really happy to get the resources to expand the great services of Virginia Garcia and, at the same time, build a green walkway in the Main Street area of Cornelius."

The space, frequently used for parking, will soon be a car-free oasis for neighbors and patients at the center. Meyer said the city plans to create streetfront parking as each piece of the walkway is completed.

He pointed to the development’s well-rounded emphasis on healthcare, active transportation, education and environmentalism as an asset to Cornelius.

"All of these causes are overlapping and addressed nicely in this project," he said.

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Mary Rose Navarro

Related Links

Urban development and revitalization

Learn about efforts to focus development in existing urban areas well served by transit and other services and amenities. Discover how communities are working to revitalize historic downtowns and main streets and build walkable, affordable neighborhoods.

Nature in Neighborhoods

Nature in Neighborhoods is a broad based regional initiative to restore and protect the region’s natural assets.

flower on an ecoroof

featured projects

Greening Interstate 205, $410,000

Unlikely partners – Friends of Trees and the Oregon Department of Transportation –teamed up to plant native trees and shrubs in an unlikely place: along the I-205 pathway. While greening the 16-mile trail, they engage volunteers, establish a model for future roadside landscaping and generate jobs for diverse communities.

Park Avenue transit station, $350,000

When TriMet's newest MAX line pulls into Park Avenue Station in Oak Grove, riders will experience the region's first sustainable, habitat-friendly park-and-ride. Green features will include a recreated riparian forest and a natural stormwater treatment system. The project will be highly visible, situated along Southeast McLoughlin Boulevard and the new Trolley Trail.

Hall Creek water quality enhancement, $354,000

When you think of nature, central Beaverton probably doesn't pop to mind – but that's about to change. The City of Beaverton is teaming up with local businesses, schools, civic organizations and governments to show that restoring a 650-foot section of Hall Creek can help the environment and attract redevelopment, too.

Featured tool

Interactive map screenshot

Explore from home

Experience Metro grant projects and natural areas through photography, video and writing on an interactive storytelling map. From Forest Grove to Troutdale and North Portland to Wilsonville, the region is filled with tales of the land. Go

Protected by voters

Chehalem Ridge

12,000 acres and counting

Thanks to two voter-approved bond measures, the Metro Natural Areas Program has protected more than 12,000 acres across the Portland metropolitan area. Caring for this land enhances water quality, wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities for future generations. Learn more

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