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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Did You Hear? We're Getting Yet Another Loo

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Thu, Feb 23, 2012 at 3:44 PM

It's official: Just like I reported might happen last May, Commissioner Randy Leonard's famously patented Portland Loo really will be installed at the Fields—a new 3.2-acre park soon to be under construction in the Pearl District.

As expected, city officials—splitting the park's $5.5 million cost between the parks bureau and Portland Development Commission—decided it would be cheaper to install a Loo ($58,000) than a brick-and-mortar bathroom ($250,000). Which makes sense. Why build a new bathroom when, because of doomsday budget cuts, the parks bureau may have to close all the ones it's already got.

"It doesn't take genius to see how ridiculous that is," Anna DiBenedetto, the Loo's point person in Leonard's office, said of building a new bathroom in the park, at NW 10th and Overton. "Bottom line," she said, no pun intended, the Loo is "cheaper."

Interestingly, the parks bureau assets manager I quoted ruminating about the potential value of Loos vs. bathrooms is none other than Mike Abbate, the guy who not long ago rose to become the bureau's director. Expect more collaboration between Leonard's office and the parks bureau, I'd say.

"But if you do these, and they turn out to be successful," says Abbate, "and there's a less expensive way to add restrooms, then you look at them."

The Fields Loo inside the park is the sixth to be announced; but it may not open until next year. Portland's fifth Loo opened January 31 at NW 5th and Couch—in a location also forecast by last May's story. The others are at Jamison Square (also in the Pearl), NW 5th and Glisan, SW Ash and Naito, and SW Taylor and Naito.

Where next? The South Park Blocks, DiBenedetto says—agreeing when I pointed out the obvious fact that what she calls "the best public bathroom out there" has so far missed the heart of downtown and also the city's annoyingly named "Pioneer District."

No specific locations yet, she says, but "I anticipate we'll have one before the end of the year."

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