Darcelle XV Plaza Project

In Planning
Located in the heart of downtown, Darcelle XV Plaza honors the late Portland luminary Walter Cole, who enlivened the city in the Darcelle XV Showplace (the longest-running drag cabaret on the West Coast).
A design rendering of the proposed Darcelle XV Plaza with drag queens performing on a stage with colorful sail shades overhead and people enjoying the show.
Activation date TBD
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We want to make sure you have the newest information

Darcelle XV Plaza news and updates will be provided on this project page and through our project email list. Enter your email address on the Darcelle XV Plaza Project Contact List and we will also include you in an email alert every time we post a project update. 

Darcelle XV Plaza Project contact list

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Project Background

In fall 2023, PP&R began working with Portland State University's (PSU) Center for Public Interest Design and NNA Landscape Architectureto plan an interim design for the new Darcelle XV Plaza site. 

The demolition of the parking garage currently located at the Darcelle XV Plaza site will be complete in early 2024, and the space is expected to be ready for all to enjoy by summer or fall. PP&R is excited to use the interim space to provide much-needed activation to the Downtown Portland core.

At this time, there is no funding to build a permanent park. However, PP&R is working in partnership with Downtown Portland Clean & Safe to activate both Director Park and the Darcelle XV Plaza site. We anticipate signing a multiyear agreement in the coming months to ensure the two sites are busy with programming and events.

The lessons we learn during this interim period over the next three to five years will inform the final design for the finished park space at Darcelle XV Plaza. While Portland Parks & Recreation optimistically hopes to complete the park late this year, there’s no firm timeline for reopening.

Proposed Design Concept

PP&R has contracted NNA Landscape Architecture to design the interim Darcelle XV Plaza site. The design includes:

  • Dramatic gateway access points at the corners
  • Cast Iron exterior with expansive folding scissor gates
  • Perimeter fence with maximum visibility and expansive entry points at SW Washington St., SW 9th Ave, and SW Park Ave.
  • Dog off-leash area (DOLA) along SW Harvey Milk St. with vestibule entries at SW 9th Ave and SW Park Ave. for safe and easy access
  • Overhead string lighting
  • Sail shade structures

We are pleased to share some visuals of the design progress of the Darcelle XV Plaza site.

Design Concept Overhead View

An illustration showing the proposed plaza, dog off-leash area, and activation spaces in the Darcelle XV Plaza design.
The proposed design would include a big, flexible plaza space for all types of events and activities, a dog off-leash area, sail shades, and ornamentation and flair throughout the space to honor Darcelle XV and the LGBTQ2SIA+ community.

Sail Shades and String Lighting: Cool summer shade and a warm winter glow!

A view of the sail shades at Darcelle XV Plaza, looking southeast.
The bright sail shades, with string lighting, will be a beautiful way to provide shade in the hot summer months and a warm glow in the colder winter months.

Activation Opportunities

An illustration showing the activation possibilities in Darcelle XV Plaza., including art installations, performance spaces, and connection to the surrounding buildings.
The activation opportunities at Darcelle XV Plaza include art installations, celebration of the LGBTQ2SIA+ community, performances, and connection to the surrounding businesses and buildings.

Project Updates

February 2024

Thank you to all who were able to join us at the Morgan Building for our Sunday, February 4 Darcelle XV Plaza Community Open House Event! We had a fantastic turnout and met so many folks excited about our project.

All community feedback and priorities are being gathered to be incorporated into future versions of the plaza design. We anticipate a new round of design concepts by summer 2024.  

The summaries of our January 31 engagement event and community survey can be seen below:

Attendees at the Darcelle XV Plaza Community Open House offer thoughts and feedback on the proposed design and future activation of the space.
Attendees at the Darcelle XV Plaza Community Open House offer thoughts and feedback on the proposed design and future activation of the space.

January 2024 - Join Us for a Community Open House Event!

PP&R, the Center for Public Interest Design, and Downtown Portland Clean & Safe will co-host a community open house event on Sunday, February 4, 2024. 

Members of the project team will be there to greet guests, assist people in using the engagement tools, and gather community feedback and priorities. The event will focus on:

  • Honoring Portland's diverse LGBTQIA+ history: How can this park best honor Darcelle XV, and Portland's diverse LGBTQIA+ community, in both the short and long term?
  • The Reuse of Cast Iron: How might we best reuse cast iron at the site to honor its history, honor Darcelle XV, tell broader stories about Portland’s history, and create meaningful features or landmarks in the park?
  • Art Opportunities and Activation: How can we use art, programs, and activities to honor Darcelle XV? How can we ensure the park is a vibrant public space right away and for years to come?
  • 9th Avenue Street Plaza: How can this plaza be used to create complementary space with Darcelle XV Plaza? Do you have ideas for making the space feel connected to other nearby street plazas like Pride Plaza (SW Harvey Milk Street, between SW 12th Ave and SW 13th Ave), the future Green Loop, and the SW Ankeny Cart Blocks?

What: Darcelle XV Plaza Open House
When: Sunday, February 4, 2024 / 3:00pm-6:00pm 
Where: The Morgan Building / 740 SW Washington St, Portland, OR 97205 (across SW Washington St. from Darcelle XV Plaza)

December 2023

There has been a lot of behind-the-scenes work to ensure a successful transition from the parking garage demolition to a fully operational interim park design.

PP&R is working in partnership with Downtown Portland Clean & Safe to activate both Director Park and the Darcelle XV Plaza site. We anticipate signing a multiyear agreement in the coming months to ensure the two sites are busy with programming and events.

October 2023

The Center for Public Interest Design began working with the Portland Parks Foundationon an effort to reimagine the space now known as Darcelle XV Plaza and the future of urban public space in Portland. The current Darcelle XV Plaza site is slated for demolition and will be ready for a park to be installed in fall 2023, but with no current funding mechanism to build a future park.

Darcelle XV Plaza honors Portland luminary Walter Cole, who enlivened the city of Portland with Darcelle XV Showcase, the longest-running drag cabaret on the West Coast, and supported community members through activism and advocacy for inclusion and LGBTQ2SIA+ rights.

Portland icon Poison Waters helped us get the word out about the coming interim park design and activation and listen to the priorities of the LGBTQ2SIA+ community.

Watch the Poison Waters video

July 2023

O'Bryant Square has been renamed Darcelle XV Plaza. 

The renaming of O'Bryant Square to Darcelle XV Plaza represents a crucial step towards inclusivity, recognition, and respect for Portland's LGBTQ2SIA+ community. 

O'Bryant Square, with its deep-rooted history since its dedication in 1973 by Mr. and Mrs. William E. Roberts, has the opportunity to revitalize Portland's downtown plazas. By renaming the square, Portland can breathe new life into this space and honor the lasting impact of Walter Cole, the visionary who transformed drag entertainment and provided a safe haven for people of all gender identities and sexual orientations. Darcelle XV Showcase, the longest-running drag cabaret on the West Coast, carries immense cultural, historical, and social significance.

Renaming O'Bryant Square to Darcelle XV Plaza sends a powerful message of acceptance and recognizes Walter Cole's unwavering advocacy for LGBTQ2SIA+ rights and his embodiment of strength and resilience. This decision aligns with Portland's values of diversity, social justice, equity, and mutual respect, and serves as a tribute to Walter Cole's lifelong commitment to equality and human rights.

The renaming also amplifies the visibility and representation of the LGBTQ2SIA+ community in a prominent public space. Darcelle XV Plaza will be a symbol of acceptance, love, and inclusivity, welcoming residents and visitors from all walks of life. It represents a significant stride towards embracing and uplifting LGBTQ2SIA+ individuals while preserving the historical legacy of an establishment of national historic value.

As PP&R takes necessary steps to implement the new name, Darcelle XV Plaza will stand as a powerful symbol of progress, unity, and resilience. This renaming decision reflects the City of Portland's commitment to creating an inclusive and welcoming environment, where all individuals are respected and can live authentically. It reinforces the idea that diversity is celebrated, and every person deserves dignity, respect, and the freedom to be their true selves.

Read the renaming document 

April 2023

Throughout March 2023, the Portland Parks Foundation, the Harvard Loeb Fellowship, Center for Public Interest Design, and PP&R sourced ideas, hopes, and worries from nearly 1,000 Portlanders on how a new public space at O'Bryant Square (later renamed Darcelle XV Plaza) could serve Portland's communities.

Read what we learned

Project Timeline

  • Spring 2023: “Back to Square One” public events were held to gather public feedback on an interim park design; demolition of parking garage begins. 
  • Summer 2023: Portland City Council renames O’Bryant Square “Darcelle XV Plaza” to honor and celebrate Portland’s most iconic drag queen and LGBTQ2SIA+ rights champion.
  • Fall 2023: PP&R solicits interest to activate and program Darcelle XV Plaza when it opens; PP&R also enters into an agreement with Downtown Portland Clean and Safe; partners with the Center for Public Interest Design and Poison Waters to hear ideas for the new park; and initiates interim park design.
  • Winter 2024: PP&R will host a public engagement event to gather feedback (details coming soon).
  • Spring/Summer 2024: Construction for interim plaza begins.
  • Completion and activation: While Portland Parks & Recreation optimistically hopes to complete the park late this year, there’s no firm timeline for reopening.

Back to Square One

In late 2022, the Center for Public Interest Design began working with the Portland Parks Foundation and alumni of the Loeb Fellowship of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design on an effort to engage the public to reimagine O’Bryant Square. The group focused on interim design ideas for programming and recreation that could take place at the site. The Center for Public Interest Design and Portland Parks Foundation initiative held a series of events in early 2023, “Back to Square One,” that engaged more than 1,000 Portlanders around their ideas on how the park could have a positive and lasting impact on the community. A summary can be found here at: centerforpublicinterestdesign.org/park-block-1

Since the three-month series of public engagement events, many exciting and relevant changes have emerged:

  • Community Partner: A public request for information was released in June 2023 to collaborate with PP&R to activate the new park.PP&R has identified Downtown Portland Clean and Safe as a community partner to serve as the programming lead for the new park’s interim phase (over the next three to five years). Downtown Portland Clean and Safe's proposal called for a versatile plaza space, a small dog off-leash area, and 150 events annually. These events will include seasonal amenities such as a temporary ice skating rink, global spring festivals, music performances, and multiple LGBTQ2SIA+ Pride events.
  • An Inclusive New Focus:  In July 2023, O’Bryant Square was renamed “Darcelle XV Plaza” after the late Darcelle XV. This decision was intended to reflect the City of Portland’s commitment to fostering a more inclusive city. Though it predated the name change, honoring the LGBTQ2SIA+ community is a key priority identified in the Back to Square One Process.  Renaming the park has solidified a new, exciting focus: to incorporate programming that commemorates, celebrates, and honors Darcelle XV and the greater LGBTQ2SIA+ community, to ensure its success. 
  • Community Engagement Update:
    • The Center for Public Interest Design collaborated with Poison Waters on a series of interviews to engage people about what they envision for the new Darcelle XV Plaza.  Watch the interview here: centerforpublicinterestdesign.org/darcelle
    • PP&R’s next public engagement event is coming soon!
  • Design Update: PP&R is working with a design team from the Center for Public Interest Design and consulting civil engineers and landscape architects on the near-term interim infrastructure. The park design’s base plan will accommodate the ability to test new programming and activities for an evolving downtown.