UPDATED 5/18/2011

For the last four years, members of the Piedmont Neighborhood Association have wanted to improve the Bryant Street Pedestrian Bridge, one of the main gateways into the neighborhood, and they are quickly moving forward with plans to do so before North Portland’s Sunday Parkways event on June 26.

The pedestrian bridge is frequently subject to graffiti and littering. “It's a neglected piece of transportation infrastructure,” says Piedmont resident Brian Borrello. “There’s the perception that it’s dangerous and seedy.”

Borrello admits that neighborhood associations can sometimes take the tone of “noisy this and graffiti that,” but he says that Piedmont residents are focusing their efforts to improve this pedestrian bridge and make it something the community can be proud of.

“This project is like putting down a welcome mat into our neighborhood,” Borrello says.

The neighborhood association received a $50,000 grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation to make safety enhancements and other improvements. Approximately 60 feet of unnecessary fencing will be removed around land banks on both sides of the bridge. The area will be landscaped, trees will be planted, and permeable paving will be installed.

Borrello says there are also plans to improve the width of turns in order to make it more accessible for bicyclists. Reflective panels will also be installed, so people can see around blind corners.

Brian Borrdello uses an airbrush to test participants' stencils.
Brian Borrello uses an airbrush to test participants' stencils.

The biggest piece of the project is a stencil design that will be installed at the entrance to the bridge. A collaboration between artists and neighbors is underway to teach them the finer points of stencil design, and the first of two workshops took place on Tuesday, May 11, at Peninsula Park Community Center.

Borrello described the first workshop, which approximately 18 people attended, as a “Stencil 101” class teaching people the basics. The second will be more advanced.

The workshops are taught by local stencil artist Tiago DeJerk, who has worked with other neighborhood associations in the past.

DeJerk, who teaches many workshops, was thrilled that people, particularly the children in attendance, were “thinking outside the box,” using the stencil templates he provided to make creative designs.

Those who attended, he says, were “artists that had a lot of knowledge about stencil, as well as kids and moms who had never seen a stencil before. It was very diverse. Everyone got to get something new out of it.”

The second workshop is scheduled for Saturday, May 14, and will take place at the pedestrian bridge.

“People are going to have an even better opportunity to talk about what they want to see,” DeJerk says.

DeJerk doesn’t have a particular vision of the bridge’s stencil design, saying it is ultimately up to neighbors. The hope is to begin the drawing during the summer and have it completed before the Sunday Parkways event.

“We’re looking at having this space at the foot of the bridge take on some shape as a social space,” Borrello says.

UPDATE 5/18/2011: "Bryant Street Bridge to close for upgrades"
By Jonathan Maus, BikePortland.org