PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty and the Portland Bureau of Transportation announced Wednesday that they have agreed to take emergency action to demolish and revamp O’Bryant Square — the condemned underground parking garage topped by a street-level park on Southwest Harvey Milk Street.

Once a bustling spot for downtown shoppers and food cart diners, the garage was fenced-off and closed indefinitely in March of 2018, after a property assessment revealed extensive damage to the concrete structure’s joists, walls, columns and footings.

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File photo of the condemned parking structure under O’Bryant Square. (KOIN)

“A portion of [a deficient retaining wall] had been re-used from a building on the site that was built in approximately 1915,” the city said. “Leaks into the garage were also discovered around this time. These safety concerns prompted the closure of the garage and plaza above it.”

The area has changed dramatically since the park’s closure. The Alder Street food carts are now gone, replaced by a 35-story Ritz Carlton hotel. Marriott has also built a nearby 12-story hotel at the corner of 10th Avenue and Alder Street since the park’s closure.

A view of the exterior of the Ritz-Carlton Portland at SW 9th and Washington, October 2022 (KOIN)
A view of the exterior of the Ritz-Carlton Portland at SW 9th and Washington, October 2022 (KOIN)

In Wednesday’s announcement, Hardesty said that she has signed off on an “emergency procurement letter,” making the first step toward reopening O’Bryant Square. After years of discussion, the City of Portland plans to fill the defunct parking structure with dirt and cover the surface with a new layer of grass.

“For the last 2 years, my staff and PBOT’s team have been working tirelessly in collaboration with Council offices and multiple bureaus to bring this agreement across the finish line. I’m so proud that we are now on a path towards revitalizing and reopening another treasured public space in O’Bryant Square downtown.”

Demolition is scheduled to begin by the summer of 2023. This includes the removal of all of the park’s pre-existing structures. The local business Northwest infrastructure, LLC is expected to accept the demolition project, which will reportedly cost the city $4.5 million. Once demolition is complete, Mayor Ted Wheeler said, the city will begin designing a new park space on the property.

“O’Bryant Square has been an eyesore since it was condemned,” said Mayor Ted Wheeler. “I look forward to involving the public in designing the space once it is cleared and have ensured funding for this in my recent budgets.”