The Site for the Garden of Surging Waves
The Garden of Surging Waves was initially planned to occupy a portion of a small waterfront block northeast of the intersection of 9th and Astor Streets. This is the site of a pre-existing but underutilized city park that lies near the heart of what once was Astoria's Chinatown.
At one time, Astoria's Chinatown was the most populated Chinatown north of San Francisco. Defined boundaries of the district vary, but it may be roughly described as the area along Bond and Astor Streets between 5th and 9th Streets. This district's waterfront was home to several canneries, where approximately 75 percent of Astoria's Chinese men worked, and its inner blocks contained the associated boarding houses where many of the Chinese workers lived.
A design for the Garden of Surging Waves at the 9th Street site was already complete, and artwork from China had arrived when an unexpected opportunity presented itself.
On a city block (the “Legion Block”) in the center of downtown Astoria, where a grocery store stood until 2005, waterlogged timbers that had long supported the concrete floor of the store succumbed and began to collapse into the vacant basement space. This particular block had been a focus of redevelopment discussions ever since the City purchased the property in 2002. The foundation failure just provided the impetus to quickly shift from discussion to action.
City Councilor Arline LaMear, along with Astoria City Library Director Jane Tucker, suggested moving the Garden of Surging Waves from its 9th Street site to the more centrally located Legion Block in the middle of downtown Astoria. The new location would be more visible and provide additional urban park space for community use. The Astoria City Council and the Garden's project committee agreed that the move was a good solution. The block was subsequently renamed "Astoria Heritage Square."
The Garden of Surging Waves occupies the northwest corner of Heritage Square — the block bound by Duane, Exchange, 11th and 12th Streets, adjacent to City Hall — and preserves the design and footprint that were planned for the original 9th Street location.
As funds are available, other portions of the Heritage Square block will be redeveloped for public use, and include community gathering space similar to Portland's Pioneer Square (see conceptual renderings above). Concepts call for the block to feature an amphitheater and creative, interpretive “windows” to Astoria's past. The American Legion Building currently situated on the site would remain and be integrated into the block's redevelopment.