by Tony Zeli
Historic Bramhall Square
Site of the first federal execution (of Thomas Bird in 1790), today Bramhall Square is an oft forgotten public space at the intersection of the West End and Parkside. It sits awkwardly atop the highest hill in Portland – that’s right, higher than Munjoy Hill.
The public park is located in the midst of one of the most densely populated parts of Portland. Yet there are empty store fronts. And navigating the busy intersection and the park’s sloping sidewalks can be a nightmare, especially in winter. The sloping sidewalks offer a challenge to City plows. There is no bus shelter. And the park is outside of the downtown service district. So, last winter’s festive lights were hung by your neighbors, not the City.
Now, a group of residents and business owners have come together to support the park. They have a Facebook group with over 80 members, and are holding a design competition to generate interest in the park.
“With the revitalization of Congress Square, there’s this sense that wow, even these small spaces can be so much better,” says Liz Trice, CEO of Peloton Labs, a co-working space located at Bramhall Square.
Trice hosted a Bramhall Square design charrette in 2015, and has been an unofficial steward of the park ever since.
The first meeting of the design competition was held on November 9th. Landscape architects, architects, urban designers, stakeholders and neighbors gathered to kick-off the competition.
“No one’s promised to do anything. Our hope was to have a competition, get some great ideas out there that hopefully are inspiring enough to build some momentum … so neighbors in the meantime can get excited,” says Trice.
Designs will be presented on December 7th, 6 to 8 p.m. at Peloton Labs (795 Congress Street). There will be a popular vote, followed by a panel review. Prizes are from local business owners.
Sponsors include Portland Society of Architecture, Opus Consulting, Boston Society of Landscape Architects, Parkside Neighborhood Association, West End News and Peloton Labs.