Once dangerous Portland park becomes newest food cart pod

Ankeny Square cleans up into food cart pod

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A park that was once a dangerous eyesore in downtown Portland has turned into the city's newest food cart destination, called Grubbin'.

Back in April, the parks department issued a challenge: Come up with a great idea to activate Ankeny Square and bring back positivity. The person with the best idea could rent the square for $1 a year, for up to two years.

Portland State business student Jamal Gardner was the winner.

"To activate it, to do things, to have a community. So I get to be the guy who gets to bring a new view to a very old idea!" Gardner said as he showed off the new space.

The city is helping him put the final touches on his business plan for Ankeny Square, located on West Burnside and Southwest Ankeny Street. A food cart pod full of interesting stories of their immigrant owners trying to make it in America, a stage for live music and performances, and a large seating area.

The types of food include Venezulean, American, coffee, Greek and sandwiches.

Back in April, the city began pressure washing the century-old public restroom houses, installing new railings, new plants and bark mulch, and removing graffiti, dirty needles and decades of filth.

Ankeny Square has a bad history, including drug overdoses inside the public bathrooms and prostitution. It had become a popular site for homeless camping.

This idea could be the answer to help other neglected areas of the city. People are loving the change so far.

"Yeah I think they should do this other places, clean up everything and make it really nice and bring in carts like this, I love the carts," said Julius Brown, who catches the bus at Ankeny Square regularly.

Bailey's Taproom is right down the alley from Ankeny Square. Beer buyer Bill Murnighan told KGW back in April, virtually any change to Ankeny Square would help out their business. And now, "People aren't really hanging out in the park anymore. A lot of the riff-raff, for now, have drifted from this area," Murnighan said.

Gardner's focus is on community and diversity through art and food carts like Rami's Go Cart. "To me, he is the embodiment of the classic American dream," Gardner said of his tenant. Rami is a Mexican immigrant proud to serve truly American food like burgers and fries in a space that's reinventing its future.

Thursday, Sept. 15, is the official grand opening for Grubbin', which will include music all day, food, and a speech from the mayor. Look for live music on many days, art shows, performances and dancing in the square in the future.

KGW


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