Richard Kiely believes in the future of East Portland, and he believes that future will be made possible through collaboration.
A 16-year resident of Portland, Kiely has been part of the 82nd Avenue of Roses Business Association for nine years and president for the last two years. He operates a small commercial printing company in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood.
On the mission of the 82nd Avenues of Roses Business Association...
We have the largest business association by area in Portland. We go from the [Clackamas] county line to I-84 and from 72nd to 92nd Avenue. That's an amazing amount of area to cover. With 500-plus businesses in that area, we're trying to join the businesses and the neighborhood associations that connect to 82nd.
I can't even count the number of languages on 82nd Avenue and I only speak one of them. We're trying to get all of these associations and languages together so we can make a better Portland.
My opinion is, we're all in the same boat. If we all paddle together and in the same direction we get there faster.
On bringing people together...
I am one of the people who helped start the Movies in the Park project [with Portland Parks and Recreation]. We started with six movies in five parks and now they're doing something like 50 movies in 48 parks. It was about finding ways to promote interaction and communication within each community. Since its inception we've watched neighborhood associations grow, neighborhood watch groups flourish, neighbors and neighborhoods interact more to make safer places to live and play.
With that as our guide, I felt we could do the same thing with the 82nd Avenue of Roses on the business side. Businesses are always concerned about the decreasing market share and profitability of their companies, so they don't really come together to try to promote each other because of the time constraints and lack of information and marketing skills needed to accomplish that goal. We are attempting to do something about that through the Portland Pilot Program, the annual parade and our business association.
On the potential of 82nd and Division...
It's been difficult for a long time. 82nd and Division had a sullied reputation. Homelessness, mental health issues, prostitution and drug addiction were blatant. We are working with the dedicated officers of East Precinct [of Portland Police] to promote “good neighbor” agreements that have helped curb crime and assist those in need.
The "Avenue of Roses" sign caps we put up there a number of years ago made it aesthetically nicer, but it really didn't change the public perception. We feel the addition of what APANO, the Jade District and what Metro is doing with the furniture store, and what PCC has done, hopefully we can slow crime and the traffic down. If we can clean up that corner, I believe we’ll have a better chance of putting in more public safety features while offering our diverse community the opportunity to connect and help plan our next phase of development.
On where momentum for change came from...
I think it came from the grassroots neighborhood associations getting tired of watching the continued deterioration of a once vital area. The 82nd Avenue of Roses Business Association are doing their part and lately we are not alone. I have seen both business associations and bordering neighborhood associations joining us to seed the changes they would like to see in our individual areas as well as the thoroughfare.
On what would be good to see next on 82nd near Division...
I see the transition. It's getting better slowly.
It would be nice to have the speed limit dropped. Even though it says 35, people do 60. It would be nice to have it 25 or 30. We'd like people to slow down and see what's there.
In my opinion we don't need any more strip malls but it would be economically encouraging having some professional buildings on some of the car lots that wished to subdivide and expand their growth potential. We’d like to have some nicer restaurants, have more nice little places like at Fubonn. It would be relaxing to enter a pub with great food and live music. A quiet café for an afternoon brunch. I would love to see varied ethnic restaurants where you could immerse yourself in another culture for an evening of dinner theater. A family fun center with a great pizzeria or miniature golf center to add to the experience.
On the challenge of changing perceptions...
I've been doing this for almost nine years. In reality, we are attempting to rebuild a brand name that has been tarnished over time with neglect. We are seeing positive things happen slowly. With assistance we can make them happen faster.
Today if you break a nail it's on Facebook. News travels at the speed of the Internet. And the old joke: nothing travels faster than good news except bad news. People only want to talk about bad news. The kid who worked diligently to achieve an Eagle Scout award should be on Page One, and the guy who robbed the liquor store should be beneath the tire ads in section E, page 8 below the fold.
On connecting across cultures...
What I see here is the same thing I saw as a kid. I grew up in the brownstones in Bridgeport, Connecticut. We had these segregated neighborhoods – the Irish, Italian, Polish, etc. neighborhoods. The only time people did business outside of their own neighborhood was when they had to. It took them decades to realize that when they worked together they all made more money and made a better neighborhood for everyone.
That's what this situation is missing. We have first and second generation neighbors from diverse backgrounds here and that's wonderful. It's what America is. But if everyone's staying in their own comfort zones, they're not accomplishing as much because they're not working together. They're working really hard and just treading water.
82nd Avenue [business association] assisted in the formation of the Jade District and are proud to partner with them where we can. We still have cultural idiosyncrasies to learn, appreciate and respect. We are working together to overcome those bumps in the road. I think the Night Market was a great start.
On giving back...
I was honored to be a recipient of the Spirit of Portland award a few years back. During the acceptance ceremony I explained that I had a responsibility as a business owner. I had an obligation to give back to the people of Portland, who treat me with dignity and afforded me the lifestyle and small success I had achieved. Their continued support afforded me the time and opportunity to be a community partner and steward for the area in which my family lives.
I don’t mind paying a few dollars more to buy local and help generate income in the community. It keeps local business in business. They are the ones who do the grassroots work, they help build community gardens, and sponsor everything from neighborhood lemonade stands to Neighborhood Night Out. Small businesses turn the key at 6 a.m. and shut the computer off at midnight. These are the people from all ethnicities, cultures and beliefs that make local communities thrive.
In my opinion, the big picture is simple: We make the east side bright and shiny again. It will attract new and larger businesses, lower taxes, reduce crime, insurance rates will decrease, children and families will prosper monetarily and strengthen family unity, our infrastructure will be repaired, living wage jobs will be on the rise, while the existing businesses profit from added revenue through blue collar liquid capital and increases in feeder businesses and new start-up companies. If we build it they will come!
IN FOCUS: 82ND AND DIVISION
A story of an intersection where people, cultures and opportunities cross.