My office is on the fourth floor of the State Theatre building on the High Street side. I overlook Congress Square.

In two short months, the park has been transformed. It is clean. It feels safe. People come to the park to eat lunch at the Small Axe food truck. They sit or lounge on the new bench. Small children play, mothers relax. A clown playing a saxophone serenades. This summer promises events and activities programmed by SPACE Gallery, Portland’s best venue.

What did it take to accomplish this? Very little. A few smart people with good intentions, good ideas and a vision. A little money from a foundation. Engaging with the right collaborators. In short, visionary leadership.

I support the Westin adding an event center, and I support the parks referendum that would void the sale of most of Congress Square Plaza to the Westin. A New York City firm – Present Architecture – offered a vision of one way this could work (“Two firms draw up alternative visions for Portland plaza,” Sept. 6, 2013). My own preference would be a Winter Garden – a year-round green space to lift our spirits through the long winter.

I propose that Congress Square Park be moved to the roof of the planned development. Why not compromise on a plan that retains the public space, significantly improves it and maintains it at the developer’s expense, and creates a new public amenity that overlooks the city square? I’d vote for that.

For the time being, all I can do is vote “yes” on June 10. A “yes” vote doesn’t stop development; it forces a more inclusive solution to a thorny problem.

Andrew Graham


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