When the sun sets over Taipei, the market at Shilin is just heating up. Smells of stinky tofu and sizzling sausage mingle with plumes of smoke above stalls strung with white lights, while performers and musicians amuse the crowds. Shops are bustling and there are games to be played. At this night market and others around the world, people come together to browse, socialize, and unwind. Sure, there are daytime markets, but under the cover of darkness, night markets feel exhilarating, drawing locals relieved to be off from work. They’re entertainment venues pulsating with life; there’s plenty to see and do, and dinner’s cooking. This is the vision the residents of the Jade District want to see become reality.
The Jade District, the area surrounding 82nd and Division in SE Portland, was designated by the Portland Development Commission (PDC) as a Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative (NPI) district in 2011. The NPI is a public/private partnership that aims to transform underserved commercial districts in east Portland into engines of economic growth without displacing the communities that reside there.
The Jade District is roughly 40% communities of color and is particularly identified for its rich blend of Asian influences. As part of the PDC’s community outreach to diverse communities within the Jade, APANO was contracted in early 2013 to reach out to the community to determine how the NPI project could best serve the residents. Since then, APANO has put together a steering committee comprised of neighborhood association representatives, local business owners, school volunteers, and residents to lead the development initiatives.
The steering committee is tasked primarily with identifying key opportunities for physical improvements to provide a safer and more welcoming environment for commerce in the Jade. This fiscal year, for example, the committee voted to use its capital improvement budget to install banners on the lamp poles of the Jade District, increasing district visibility to passing traffic.
What makes APANO’s involvement critical, however, is that these improvements for business are being made in a way that respects the local community, focusing not only on improved business, but also upon improved health and educational outcomes. By engaging the community in the Jade District through the development of the Jade Steering Committee and a series of local business surveys, we have identified strong support for a community garden and Asian night market, and have already begun work on these areas in collaboration with Harrison Park School.
Located in the center of the Jade District, Harrison Park is the largest and most diverse K-8 Portland Public School. Now, it will become host to a vibrant community garden that will serve as a center for community engagement. This garden will advance the school as a center for the local neighborhood and will allow the large number of immigrant and refugee families in the area access to fresh and culturally specific nutritious food.
Beyond the community garden, we have begun work on a night market for the Jade District. Night markets are often the center of social life and commerce and exist throughout Asia in locations such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Malaysia, China, Thailand, and the Philippines. They have been replicated to great success in Chinatowns around the world, and have been well-documented as an engine of development. By making the Jade District a destination within the city, we will create jobs, improve walkability, and drive down crime rates as people are walking about the district in the evenings.
APANO is committed not only to building economic capital, but also to building our community’s social capital through these projects. Be on the lookout for exciting changes to the Jade District in the upcoming months. Please contact duncan @ apano.org to find out more!