Rosewood Initiative

Project Origin and Description

Rosewood is a neighborhood on the border between Northeast Portland and Gresham. Both the people and the place have been left out and behind of the making of Portland as a model city. Over the past three years, Portland State University, School of Architecture students have worked with this community and the Rosewood Initiative to support place making in a neighborhood that has long suffered being on the margins of Portland, physically and socially. These activities have included: design-build furniture, graphic branding and signage, the envisioning of the adaptive reuse of various vacant infrastructures, and supporting community arts programming.

Community Demographics

An examination of statistics from multiple categories served as an initial orientation to the population specifics of the Rosewood neighborhood. Race, gender, age, education, population density, household size, home ownership, median household income, and average distance of commute were all factors used to build an informative understanding of the characteristics of the neighborhood and the pressures, deficits, and opportunities they face.

Identifying Community

The Rosewood logo was workshopped through multiple iterations with the Rosewood Initiative, residents, and students. The residents wanted to affirm their place within Portland (hence the use of the rose), but also make themselves distinct. The final design combines symbols representing growth, community and cooperation.



Rosewood Neighborhood, Portland and Gresham, Oregon



Mercy Corps
East Portland Action Plan
Urban Dialogues


From Dry Cleaner to Cafe
In the summer of 2011, residents of Rosewood showed up to help demolish the interiors of a former dry cleaning store in the Village Square strip mall in order to establish a neighborhood center and cafe. They had enough funding to acquire the shell and gut it. It stands as the only public space in this neighborhood and has no heat, no furnishings, inadequate light, unfinished interiors and exteriors. This project seeks to finish what the people of Rosewood began: create a safe place for public gathering in a Portland, Oregon neighborhood where traditional policing methods have not been effective against drugs, theft, gang violence, and human trafficking. The project goals are:

  1. Design a place where neighbors and businesses can rally around public safety, wellness and livability issues.
  2. Use the intersection of architecture and art to foster an engaging public realm for Rosewood.

From Billiards to Community
When leasing issues meant the Rosewood Iniatitive needed to move from the former dry cleaner space to a former billards hall, students reengaged with the residents on the design of a neighborhood space and cafe. The existing building offers several design challenges which include creating a better acoustic environment, creating a flexible space for different program needs, and designing within budget constraints. The project was broken into phases so that there would be time to raise money for each subsequent phase during construction. This grows the center incrementally and addresses the issue of affordability.

Next Steps

The Rosewood Initiative has been successful in social programming and alerting residents to available city resources, but the physical support of Rosewood is still lacking (in terms of urban, economic, and cultural infrastructures supportive of programs). Funding is needed to make the physical place match the culturally vibrancy.