Where We Live: 25 years of Share-It Square

Multnomah County

The intersection at SE 9th and SE Sherrett streets is a vibrant public square

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A southeast Portland neighborhood is celebrating 25 years of turning an ordinary intersection into a vibrant public square.

Even during the pandemic, the “Share-It Square” remains the center of their tight-knit community and a model for other neighborhoods across the nation.

The street mural at the intersection at SE 9th and SE Sherrett streets helped bring a neighborhood together. Each corner with interactive elements conceived and built by people in the neighborhood, including a children’s playhouse, a community bulletin board and even a Little Free Library built by the neighborhood kids.

Share-It Square founder Mark Lakeman said it’s been “credited as the first Little Free Library in the world.”

“What we’re seeing here is a quintessentially Portland initiative to retrofit the landscape with a sense of space and we remain national leader in that sense,” he said.

Lakeman, who is an architect and urban planner, enlisted his neighbors to embrace Share-It Square in 1996. He had visited villages in other parts of the world and saw how neighborhoods in the United States could become their own small villages.

Lakeman founded The City Repair Project which, along with his company Communitecture, designs and promotes creative public spaces in Portland and elsewhere.

“It was kind of a thing that was so unusual that it compelled people to share stories about it,” he said.

The pandemic and winter have quieted Share-It Square for now. Even the solar-powered, 24-hour tea station is temporarily closed.

But the intersection remains the landmark meeting place — the center of the neighborhood — and proof that ordinary places can become extraordinary places.

Lakeman said Portland has passed ordinances over the years allowing other neighborhoods to retrofit their intersections as public squares for free.

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