North Portland Aquatic Center’s Location Narrowed to Three Possible Sites

News Article
Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) announces that, thanks to continued input from neighbors and project stakeholders, there are now only three sites under consideration for the North Portland Aquatic Center.

(Portland, OR) –

Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) announces that, thanks to continued input from neighbors and project stakeholders, there are now only three sites under consideration for the North Portland Aquatic Center.

Listed in alphabetical order: 

  • Columbia Park
  • Northgate Park
  • University Park
Two young kids sit on the pool deck of an indoor pool during a PP&R swim lesson. An instructor in the pool smiles as he prepares to hi-five a young girl while a boy with blue goggles looks on.
A new North Portland Aquatic Center is a long-awaited project and will be a hugely important community centerpiece. Commissioner Ryan and Portland Parks & Recreation continue to look for more funding options for the project.

“Community engagement is at the forefront of this project because we see it as a 100-year investment in North Portland,” says Dan Ryan, Portland Commissioner of Culture & Livability. “This facility will address historical gaps in access and service quality for the community. I’m thankful for the thoughtful and considerate input that community members are providing Portland Parks & Recreation.”

In narrowing down the list to three prospective locations for the new aquatic center, the project advisory committee members, focus group participants, and community members who engaged in PP&R’s series of community workshop events identified three priority criteria:

  1. The center should be easily accessible, including for people who walk, wheel, or use public transportation.
  2. The center should be close to other community resources, such as public schools, affordable housing, and community organizations which work with vulnerable populations and Portlanders earning low incomes.
  3. The center should have minimal impact on the surrounding neighborhood and environment. That means keeping existing park amenities and trees, ensuring the area can safely accommodate pedestrian, bicycle, and car traffic, and offer available parking.

North Portland’s diverse and growing population is currently without a public pool. That is approximately 70,000 people – including roughly 18,000 people of color and roughly 11,000 experiencing poverty – without a place to learn to swim, do water aerobics, or exercise. PP&R hopes to provide access and opportunities for young children and communities from diverse backgrounds to learn basic water survival skills and explore additional opportunities offered through an established aquatics center. Access to aquatics programming is an equity issue.

“Black children in the U.S. are three times more likely to die from drowning than white children,” notes PP&R Director Adena Long. “We know this is directly tied to access to pools, swim lessons, and life-saving water safety skills. This is one of many reasons that makes the need for a large, year-round, full-service aquatic center so acute. I’m pleased to see the project’s robust community engagement continue.”

With three prospective locations for the center, PP&R invites the community to share their thoughts and priorities with our project team. The third community workshop for the North Portland Aquatic Center takes place Thursday, April 27, 2023 (originally scheduled for April 4, 2023).

What: North Portland Aquatic Center  Community Workshop #3

When: Thursday, April 27, 2023, 5:30-7:30pm 

Where: César Chávez School Cafeteria, 5103 N. Willis Blvd. Portland, OR 97203

Community members can add Community Workshop #3 to their calendar by reserving a spot at the April 27 event at the following link:

The PP&R project team will share detailed sample design drawings of what a future North Portland Aquatic Center would look and feel like for each of the final three sites. The focus for this workshop will be to narrow the three sites down to one, and to continue the community conversation about what Portlanders view as priorities for the future facility.

For those unable to join in person on Thursday, April 27, PP&R will open an online survey that day, which will remain open for at least two weeks. All news, links, and updates are always available at the North Portland Aquatic Center project web page: 

St. Johns Park and Columbia Park Annex taken out of consideration

Neighbors told bureau staff that a large building like the planned aquatic center (possibly 47,000-60,000 square feet in size) would have detrimental effects on the character of St. Johns Park and on nearby green space and livability. Further, St. Johns Park is too distant for most Portlanders, and even the frequent TriMet bus service would still require a short walk to get to a future aquatic center at St. Johns Park.

Other community members voiced concern that building the facility in Columbia Park Annex could result in future displacement for some neighboring homes, jeopardize the popular ballfields already at the site, and that the expected increase in traffic and potential access issues at this site were daunting.