PORTLAND, Ore. -- The City of Portland is offering up a great deal for budding entrepreneuers: $1 a year to rent a historic piece of land.
But there's a catch. You have to come up with the winning business plan to turn the century old Ankeny Square on West Burnside and Park Avenue into a vibrant, useable space.
A chain link fence went up Wednesday so crews can scrub down the park to make way for it's new life, and new reputation. Workers are cleaning out gutters and raking old leaves. New paint and repairs are next.
The old mossy bricks built as public restrooms, closed for the past two years, have become a magnet for problems. We spotted drug needles on the roof, graffiti on the walls, and open, unabashed pot smoking.
"It just needs to be cleaned up, it looks really bad," said Marc Stevens who works nearby. He would love to be able to eat lunch in the park, or just take a work break, but he says, "Between the park blocks and over in the Pearl District, this is like a little island of 'ick' in the middle of all of it. It needs to be spruced up definitely."
Portland Parks and Recreation is now acting on those kinds of complaints. This week, they started asking for business plan submissions for things that could work in between the existing buildings and trees, like food cart pods, coffee shops, floral shops or souvenir stands.
"When there's cool things happening in the park, there's a lot fewer uncool things happening," said Parks and Recreation spokesman Mark Ross. "This idea for activating Ankeny is coming from the community."
The department says the brick buildings will stay because they're part of the city's history. Trees in the park will be evaluated and dangerous branches will be limbed up. Rent will be $1 a year, for up to two years, then they'll re-evaluate how it's going.
Bill Murnighan of Bailey's Taproom next door hopes for food carts and outdoor tables, creating a safer corridor down the alley.
"It's going to be really cool to see the park revitalized and brought back to its original form and being so close to Burnside, I think it'll get some really good use," Murnighan said.
Submissions will be taken until April 20. Friday, April 8 is an informational meeting. Then a committee will evaluate and choose the winning ideas in the following 30 days.