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Community Livability Grants – making a small but mighty difference

February 22, 2012

Our Happy Block Coalition volunteers

Our Happy Block Coalition 


Our Happy Block Coalition volunteer
Our Happy Block Coalition volunteer


Our Happy Block swale
A new stormwater swale
The Our Happy Block Coalition is a grass roots, neighborhood-led group in the Mount Scott-Arleta neighborhood that rallied to fix an eyesore. In 2010, Our Happy Block applied for a Community Livability Grant to transform an old church parking lot at the Calvary Lutheran Church on SE 80th & Woodstock into a shared community space. What has transpired since 2010 has been nothing short of breathtaking, driven by hundreds of donated volunteer hours, partnerships with community-based organizations, and the work of one dedicated woman and neighborhood resident.

Plagued by cut-through traffic and illegal activities, the parking lot prompted neighbor Terah Beth Varga with TBBV Design to do something about it. She organized her neighbors, struck a friendship with the church parishioners, wrote lots of grants, and ultimately designed and managed the project from conception through construction. PDC's CLG funds served as a $5,000 challenge grant to Our Happy Block to raise matching funds, develop partnerships, and phase an ambitious plan into feasible steps. The work included installing a 1,000 SF native plant garden adjacent to the parking lot, planting new street trees with Friends of Trees, partnering with Depave to demolish and remove sections of the lot for stormwater swales and new native landscaping, and installing a new sidewalk (and parking strip with trees) to eliminate access to SE Martin Street and its correlating cut-through traffic. Subsequent partnerships produced a new mural on the back of McCollum Auto Body on SE 82nd Ave., funded through SE Uplift; reduced stormwater runoff and the conversion of crumbling blacktop into a usable green space through the installation of new landscaping funded by East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District.

A new round of PDC Community Livability Grant funds was announced on February 21, 2012, with up to $300,000 in grants  available in each of the Interstate and Lents Town Center URAs. These grants support a wide variety of community benefits: historic preservation, open spaces and gardens, community and cultural centers, social services, job training, and the growth of local businesses. Visit the Community Livability Grant page for more information.