A proposed redesign of Portland’s Congress Square Park imagines the plaza filled with plants, statues and fountains on gently sloping surfaces, and would streamline the nearby intersection by eliminating the cut-through from High Street to Free Street.
Philadelphia design firm WRT on Thursday evening presented the new visions of the park — the site of a bitter fight between some Portlanders and City Hall in 2013 — to about 100 city residents, who were there to ask questions, offer critiques and make suggestions Thursday night.
Many of those in attendance at the public meeting seemed pleased with the broad strokes of the plan, but there are few details about the final product — and it’s still not clear how much the large construction project would cost, or how it would be funded.
The idea of a new, greener Congress Square grew out of the City Council’s controversial decision to sell the site to a development company that wanted to add a conference space to the adjacent The Westin Portland Harborview hotel. Citizens’ groups fought the sale in a referendum and court case, which overturned it.
Based on WRT’s renderings, the new square would feature a stage facing out onto Congress Street, interactive water installations — possibly a shallow pool or jets — and a new plaza in front of the Portland Museum of Art, where a small traffic island presently sits. The state Department of Transportation must approve changes to the streets and sidewalks.
The proposal imagines the park dabbled with trees and plants and includes artwork by New York artist Sarah Sze.
Sze plans to install three sculptures that would form a sort of narrative through the square, according to her colleague, David Ramirez, who did not elaborate.
The city is paying $75,000 to Sza and $80,000 to WRT.