Vacant downtown city block will host temporary park

Group hopes sprucing it up will spur development

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer

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Block 10 temporary park

Volunteers and donations are needed to help install a temporary park on a vacant city lot downtown:

Volunteer: A work party of Washington State University alumni will be on-site from 9 a.m. to noon Sept. 15. RSVP by Sept. 12.

Donations: Flower bulbs, landscaping materials, lumber and money are all needed to complete the park.

To RSVP, donate or for more information: Call the Vancouver Downtown Association at 360-258-1129 or email director@vdausa.org.

Block 10 — better known as the barren city block bordered by Columbia, Washington, Eighth and Ninth streets — is about to get a lot more inviting.

Plans for a temporary park are under way, spurred by the Vancouver Downtown Association.

The gravel and weeds will make way for paths, planters, interpretive signs and artistic flags, Vancouver Downtown Association Director Lee Rafferty said Monday.

Rafferty said the block has been "terribly neglected," and the new move will not only make it more inviting in the short run, but may help stage the block to sell it for development. Should the block sell, the park would be removed.

She likened the work to what the VDA did at Turtle Place farther south in downtown.

"What we have now is the coolest project. This is going to tell the story of what happened on the lot before … and the story of what's to come," Rafferty said.

The city owns the block, and city councilors signed off on the project Monday night.

"Any kind of a place like that where there's nothing visual to see, or there's a break that's kind of forbidding, its discouraging for people to walk through," said Jan Bader, program and policy director for the city of Vancouver. "It'll be nice to see something done with that block."

Paths connecting all corners will lead to the block's center, where large planters will hold trees and other landscaping, Rafferty said. A series of flags could go on one corner, and on the north side of the lot, soil will be added to plant daffodils, tulips and wildflowers.

The downtown association is also applying for a grant that would pay for interpretive signs, showing the lot's past as a Lucky Lager office building and as a former gas station.

Rafferty said that the project's success will come down to volunteers and donations. Her group is adding $20,000 in cash, and is hoping for lumber, bulbs, time and money for the project.

A group of Washington State University alumni are set to hold a work party from 9 a.m. to noon Sept. 15, but Rafferty said any and all are welcome to join.

Excavation work for edging around the entire property, as well as design and planning work, have already been donated.

"You add it all together and come out with something great," Rafferty said.

Derek Chisholm, a Vancouver-based senior planner for Parametrix who donated his time to the park's design, said there were several set goals: enliven the space with minimal expenditure; provide visual interest helping to provide a connection through to adjacent blocks; enable pedestrian cross-cut movements; interpret the historic uses of the block; maintain vehicular access for special events; and lift the eye upwards (both to draw attention away from the unfinished ground and to help people start to visualize a future building in the space).

Designs aren't yet final, he said by email, and may change depending on donations and resources.

Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542; http://www.twitter.com/col_cityhall;andrea.damewood@columbian.com.