PORTLAND’S LENTS NEIGHBORHOOD AND GREEN LENTS

In Community Stories, Lents, Lents/Powellhurst-Gilbert (Overlap) by Sachi Arakawa

Lents is a neighborhood in outer Southeast Portland, located within the Johnson Creek watershed. It was founded by the Lents family, who farmed the region in the mid-19th century. In the 1980s the I-205 freeway was built along SE 95th Ave, cutting directly through the center of the neighborhood and transforming the once quiet residential neighborhood into a busy transportation corridor. Currently, Lents is a rapidly developing single-family residential neighborhood and designated Urban Renewal Area. The neighborhood has recently become more racially and ethnically diverse, and is home to many recent immigrant populations.


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Mobilizing Community


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Green Lents is a non-profit based in the Lents neighborhood that began as a community group in 2009. Their goal was to listen to neighbors and start proactive community building projects. Today they continue to work to provide leadership, educational, and volunteer opportunities in and around Lents. The work of Green Lents includes running the Community Tool Library, transforming underused space into educational pollinator habitat sites, creating a community orchard at Malden Court, and the Livable Lents participatory planning project.
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Livable Lents is a listening project that connects community members to their neighbors and provides opportunities for local action. They are the "social pillar" of Green Lents, providing diverse and inclusive outreach to neighborhood residents. Livable Lents organizers and volunteers conduct surveys of community members in order to better inform the work being done by Green Lents, their partners, local government, and developers. Additionally, focus group discussions were hosted to increase the participation of community members who aren’t as typically represented in city planning processes. Focus groups were were held in Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese, Cantonese, and Somali. Four additional focus groups were hosted for African-American, Native American, youth, and renters. Over 1400 homes have been visited by Livable Lents representatives, and more than 800 community members have taken the survey.
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The Heart of Lents: The Lents Green Ring


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Think of the Lents Green Ring as the “hardware” portion of a Livable Lents. Residents who live within and around the Green Ring rely on it to provide bike and pedestrian friendly access through Lents and into the rapidly developing Town Center. Most everybody who drives through Lents will go through the Green Ring in some way. The Green Ring connects all the hubs and centers involved in creating a livable Lents using infrastructure improvements and investment. The Green Ring has many amenities, including the Malden Community Orchard, the Tool Library, several parks and access to the Springwater Corridor Bike and Pedestrian Trail.

Making Space for Nature: The pollinator habitat program


The Pollinator Habitat program promotes environmental health through stewardship of pollinator habitat enhancement sites in Lents. Birds, bats, butterflies, moths, and most importantly, bees are pollinators. Most plants (including fruit trees and food crops) need pollinators to help them with their reproductive process. However, many pollinator populations, including native bee species, are on the decline. Planting gardens and swales that attract and sustain a diverse variety of pollinators helps to support a healthy ecosystem.

Several habitats with native flowering plants and native bee nesting resources were established with different groups of stakeholders in partnership with Green Lents from 2012-2016. Below are the before and after photos from the Beyer Court Rain Garden project, a partnership between Green Lents, Rose CDC, and Depave, where community members came together to depave a parking lot and plant pollinator friendly native plants.

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From Space to place


The Malden Court Community Orchard is an emerging community orchard in a once underutilized 16,800 sq. ft. vacant lot. In Winter 2015, the lot was infested with Himalayan blackberries and trash. During the rest of 2015 neighbors in the community came together to plan, design, and establish a community orchard in this space. Green Lents started a 10 year lease of the land from the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, who is committed to maintaining the orchard’s current usage. Malden Court also has many native flowers and plants, and is part of the Green Ring Pollinator Habitat corridor.
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Sharing the Wealth: The Community Tool Library


Lents is currently one of eight active Urban Renewal Areas in Portland. Urban renewal or "revitalization" is a planned program of land redevelopment and finance designed to improve and redevelop areas that are considered physically deteriorated, suffering economic stagnation, unsafe or “blighted”. While Lents has not gentrified yet, impending development, fast-rising housing costs, and climate vulnerability threaten stability for communities of color, low-income residents, and immigrants who call Lents home.
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the future of lents


Lents is currently one of eight active Urban Renewal Areas in Portland. Urban renewal or "revitalization" is a planned program of land redevelopment and finance designed to improve and redevelop areas that are considered physically deteriorated, suffering economic stagnation, unsafe or “blighted”. While Lents has not gentrified yet, impending development, fast-rising housing costs, and climate vulnerability threaten stability for communities of color, low-income residents, and immigrants who call Lents home.
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The Lents Strong plan is a grassroots vision for a livable Lents intended to guide the next stages of urban renewal development in Lents. It was developed in partnership with Green Lents and Livable Lents. Building on feedback from over 1,400 residents in six languages, Lents Strong provides a framework for collective action. Through partnerships between community organizations, government agencies, and businesses, Lents Strong seeks to improve livability, preserve affordability, and foster community control in Lents.

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Special thanks to:  

Green Lents
Livable Lents 
"Lents Strong"

Image Credits:

Green Lents
Twelvizm via Home Sweet Home Reality
Ben VanderWeide
Portland Parks Foundation

Geospatial and Demographic Data Credits:

Portland Metro's RLIS
US Census Bureau