A party to celebrate the new parking lot and unveil the paintings will be held July 14. Food, music and fun for everyone!
When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 14
Where: M&M Marketplace, 346 SW Walnut St., Hillsboro
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It’s hard to find a parking spot at Hillsboro’s M&M Marketplace on a Sunday afternoon. A constant stream of cars rolls past the bright blue warehouse where dance beats pump from an outdoor speaker. The artist Frida Kahlo, represented in a row of colorful portraits, gazes down at cars gliding past a new patio of permeable pavers, where women make pupusas and a man turns pollo asado on a large grill.
The vehicles go around the corner and a large rain garden to a few open spots near the futsal courts. Back at the market’s main entrance, founder Jaime Miranda points at more rain gardens that run along the front of the building. They’re planted with native red osier dogwood, rushes, sedges and shrubs.
“It used to be a swamp right here,” he explains. “Some winters, water would flood right into the building. Now these islands absorb the water.”
The rain gardens were installed by local nonprofit Depave as part of a project to transform the busy parking lot into a greener, urban plaza. The work was largely paid for by $30,000 from Metro’s 2016 Nature in Neighborhoods grant program. The grants support a range of projects that connect people to nature, improve water quality and protect wildlife habitat. They’re designed to support communities of color and those who may have had barriers accessing Metro grant funding in the past.
About this series
Metro has invested in community nature projects for more than 25 years. Through this occasional series in 2017-18, we’ll revisit projects that previously received Nature in Neighborhoods grants or local share money to find out where the projects are now and what difference Metro’s investments made.
In November 2016, voters renewed the Metro parks and natural areas levy. Money from the levy renewal will be available starting in July 2018, and more Nature in Neighborhoods grants will be awarded then.
Miranda, who was born in Mexico and moved to Oregon as a child, opened the business with his sister in 2000. The two wanted to give their parents and the wider community an opportunity to start small businesses without onerous leases and huge overhead costs. They rented a former industrial warehouse and opened the weekend market with 12 vendors.
Now, more than 70 vendors sell food, goods and services from densely packed stalls. Customers can get clothes altered or made, photographs taken, or jewelry, watches and computers repaired. They can shop for finely-tooled leather boots, clocks bearing the faces of saints, pink plastic unicorns, soccer balls, kitchen wares, tamarind, chayote, or dried fish. At eating areas inside and outside, families dine on Sinaloan seafood dishes, fruit cocktails from Veracruz, pastries from Oaxaca, lamb barbacoa from Queratera and other regional specialties.
A clown entertains the children. Occasional dance, wrestling or mariachi performances and regular events connect customers to information and services, including a health fair.
“It’s not just a business, it’s a community hub,” says Eric Rosewall, former executive director at Depave. “I had heard through the grapevine that Jaime was doing amazing things in Hillsboro. This was our first project on the west side and for me, it was the crowning glory of the 50 or so projects I did with Depave.”
Depave’s mission is to engage communities to improve overpaved places and reconnect urban landscapes to nature.
“We try to work with underserved communities who suffer disproportionately from the burdens of pavement,” board member Ted Labbe said. Large expanses of asphalt cause urban heat islands that are bad for the environment and human health.
Retrofitting the parking lot involved excavating asphalt and building rain gardens to mitigate flooding and to filter pollutants from storm water. Volunteers laid a patio of permeable pavers, planted street trees around the perimeter, installed a pergola over an outside seating area and added an extra entrance to the lot to improve traffic flow. Artists were also commissioned to add to the existing murals.
Partners included Clean Water Services, the City of Hillsboro, and the Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District, which contributed $5,500 for street trees, gravel and mulch.
Clean Water Services paid for a large rain garden in the east parking lot, and crews helped prep for landscaping. The project highlights how parking lots in urban areas can be retrofitted with community support and minimal funding, said Laurie Bunce, an engineering technician at the organization. The rain gardens at the parking lot filter stormwater and prevent oil and brake fluid from eventually flowing into the Tualatin River.
Much of the work happened at a one-day event last October, with more than 150 volunteers from different cities, races and income levels, said Erica Mattison, who was one of the volunteers. She has since become executive director of Depave. Volunteers included customers and vendors from M&M Marketplace and people with the Church of Latter Day Saints, Intel, and the City of Hillsboro’s youth advisory council and many other organizations. For several volunteers, it was their first visit to the market.
In addition to the environmental benefits, the day was a “social and cultural exchange,” Mattison said. “So many relationships have built around this project,” she said.
A party is scheduled for July to celebrate the transformed parking lot and to unveil the paintings commissioned for the project. In them, artists reflect on their journeys from their home countries to Oregon. In one, a woman wearing Guatemalan clothes and carrying flowers and produce from the region walks toward a distant landscape featuring the Fremont Bridge and Mount Hood.
Miranda gets emotional when he looks at the paintings reflecting the experiences of many in Hillsboro’s Latinx community. But like the labor to transform the parking lot, “when there’s a group of people, it doesn’t feel so heavy.”
As well as improving the market’s infrastructure, the project has also made it more beautiful, he said. “It’s been a blessing.”