Placemaking, Identity, & Power: (Re)Negotiating Space in Downtown Woodburn
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Woodburn is Oregon’s largest Mexican majority city and it has been culturally and politically the heart of the Mexican presence in Oregon. The space downtown continues to be (re)negotiated by: • Mexican businesses that occupy once vacant storefronts, • historic preservation efforts of the Main Street Program, • development of a public plaza, and • a proposal for murals downtown. The theory of Relational Placemaking is applied to identify placemaking issues in downtown Woodburn, power structures that determine the built environment, and the connections and disconnections between key actors and institutions that determine space. Through interviews and observation, I was able to weave together a story of the place and read the “spatial text” of downtown Woodburn which told of the following placemaking issues. • conflicting identities and nostalgia of the built environment, • symbols in the built environment and their meaning for different communities, and • cultural differences in the use of space and perspectives of space. Additionally, due to a lack of connections between the Mexican and Anglo communities in Woodburn, cultural misunderstandings are further entrenched, there is a lack of shared vision for the downtown, and it inhibits the ability of those without formal institutional power (Mexican Community) to have a greater influence in the outcomes regarding the built environment. Hence, I propose strategies to promote community connections for the City of Woodburn and similar communities that can lead to greater cooperation and shared vision for placemaking in contested spaces.