Jul 17, 2023 - Development

Portland's O’Bryant Square is getting renamed and rebuilt

An archival image of O'Bryant Square park in Portland with the rose-shaped fountain in the background.

An undated archival photo of O'Bryant Square, now known as Darcelle XV Plaza. Photo: Courtesy of Shirley Tanzer photographic collection on Southwest Portland, Oregon, Org. Lot 624 and the Oregon Historical Society Research Library

O'Bryant Square has a new name — Darcelle XV Plaza.

  • Built on top of land that once was Portland's first park, the square is set to be demolished later this year, then restored as part of the city's efforts to revive downtown after years of compounding issues.

Why it matters: The new name — inspired by the stage name of legendary drag queen and LGBTQ+ champion Walter Cole, who died in March — is the first step of the costly project that seeks to uphold the square's significance as the city's "dining room."

Flashback: In April, Portland allocated $4.5 million and tapped Northwest Infrastructure LLC to demolish the plaza. Meanwhile, the nonprofit Portland Parks Foundation is leading an effort to reimagine the half-acre plot.

  • Opened in 1973 under the condition that it include a parking lot underneath, O'Bryant Square — named after the city's first mayor, Hugh O'Bryant — has remained fenced off since 2018 due to structural damage.

What's happening: By this fall, the square will simply be a grass lot surrounded by trees. It'll remain that way until the parks foundation can allocate additional funds to determine its future purpose.

  • After receiving feedback from over 1,000 Portlanders, 17 design teams submitted concepts for the multi-use space — including a baseball diamond, communal garden, skate park, beer garden and more.

What they're saying: Randy Gragg of the Portland Parks Foundation told OPB he hopes the square "can live up to the spirit, verve, excitement and humor of Darcelle."

Quick take: The plaza's reconstruction comes as city officials and businesses attempt to revitalize Portland's downtown amid rising crime rates, safety concerns, an escalating opioid epidemic and concerns about businesses leaving the area.

  • One block north of Darcelle XV Plaza is the 35-story Ritz-Carlton Residences, set to open later this summer, with luxury condos available for sale starting at $2 million. To the south is Multnomah County's Behavioral Resource Center, where those experiencing addiction seek services.

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