Activist Andy Szolnoki in Lents is aiming to transform “one of the ugliest property in the neighborhood” into something more appropriate for a neighborhood commercial district.
At the intersection of 102nd Avenue, Foster Rd and the Springwater Corridor is a PGE substation surrounded by gravel roads, chain-link fencing and barbed wire. The forlorn property sits near businesses, homes, and the under renovation East Lents Floodplains. The property fails to support it’s neighborhood, and as you’ll see below, PGE knows how to do better. Lets convince them that we’re worth the effort.
Power substations are a necessary evil in urban areas. The infrastructure at these sites transforms and distributes power load across the city, and the industrial nature of the task is difficult to deny. In most neighborhoods, PGE attempts at least some level of urban camouflage implementing architectural design, landscaping and structure to fit in with the surrounding context. Check out the images below for Google streetview snapshots of other sites in the Portland area.
Open, airy trees and layered landscaping help obscure the mess of electrical equipment behind. Nearby businesses are succeeding, showing us that even minimal coverage helps obscure the negative sights.
This creates much more of a wall than we saw on Belmont. Large (20 foot?) trees do a great job of hiding what’s going on behind, while still allowing visibility through the trunks.
This is the most urban of the sites. Rather than layers of landscaping, they hide the area in a structural shell, mimicking the buildings nearby.
Similar to Knott, the tall hedge rows block visibility from the main street. The uniformity complete lack of transparency is boring, and probably brings security issues but it’s better than nothing.
80th & Holgate
Closer to home, this site uses hedges to create a wall. Not as tall as those on 7th, they don’t really hide the equipment, but rather act as decoration to soften the harsh lines of metal.
Clearly, any of the designs above would be an improvement over what is there today. Because of the future development planned for in Lents, I think the urban structural approach seen on SE Grand is most appropriate for this location (but of course, PGE should consult with the immediate neighbors on preferred design.)
A Site of Historic Significance
While doing research on this site, it turns out the location is the site of the original Lents Junction, arguably the economic birthplace of the Town of Lent, now the Lents Neighborhood. We shouldn’t let this site be relegated to unappreciated industrial uses, rather, the site should be embraced, acknowledged and celebrated.
Lent’s Junction was the meeting place of the Interurban line running on the Springwater corridor, and the streetcar line running through SE Portland along Hawthorne/Foster. It was the trading post, connecting Gresham, Sellwood, and the city of Portland. Today, Lents is the transportation hub of modern times, where the Springwater and I-205 Paths, Foster Road, Green Line Max and the Freeway all merge.
Can the “Lents Junction Substation” be upgraded to reflect this heritage? Can we tell PGE that the Foster area deserves as good site design at our substation site? We can certainly try.
Imagine the new Lents Junction Substation. Framed with masonry, and adorned with landscaping. The north side along Foster Road can provide an urban structural frame, and ample sidewalk for the neighborhood to reach the new floodplains natural preserve. On the south side, along the Springwater corridor, the site can support the natural environment with more intense plantings, and honor the historic site with a sign on the structure, reminiscent of the original “Lents Junction” sign on the depot. This site could be an icon, and could establish a new gateway to Lents along the trail.
To make this happen, PGE needs to hear from you. You can do this in a few ways, and we encourage you to do all three.
- Call PGE Customer Relations Manager, Joe Cominsky at 503-612-3602, and talk to him directly. Tell him how you think the Lents site deserves treatments similar to other sites in Portland.
- Fill out the form on the PGE website and write your message. Your message will give them more evidence of community support.
- Send an message through our site by filling out the form at the bottom of this page. This is a form letter expressing your support for an improved substation at 102nd & Foster. The contents of the letter are below, and it will arrive to PGE from your name and email address provided below.
Hello PGE Customer Relations,
I am a customer living in the Foster/Lents area, and I’m writing to express my support for site improvements at the 102nd & Foster power substation.
I appreciate the need for these sites throughout our city, but I know you can do better. Similar sites on NE Knott St, SE Belmont St, and NE Grand Ave all show a sensitivity to context that is completely lacking from our location.
Furthermore, here in Lents you have a chance to enhance the community you operate in. Your site sits on the historic birthplace of the neighborhood. Improvements could go beyond beautification, and could help celebrate history and community.
Thank you for considering this email as a sign of broad community support for substation improvements.