'If Portland can stay weird why can't Spenard stay funky?'--people in Spenard bid on iconic neon palm tree

Published: Jun. 27, 2018 at 3:02 PM AKDT
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Some people in Spenard want to buy a 22 foot- neon palm tree that used to be in front of the Paradise Inn, which is now the property of the federal government.

A GoFundMe account has raised about $700. The bidding price in an online auction starts at $4,500.

The account says, "The iconic 22-foot neon palm tree which graced the sometimes sketchy Paradise Inn must remain in Spenard as a community asset."

The Paradise Inn, at the corner of West 30th Ave. and Spenard, now sits abandoned, broken down and covered in trash. Wood panels cover the windows. A pile of toilet paper clutters the entrance. And, where the sign once stood, there's an empty hole.

The saga over the neon sign started months ago. A garbage disposal company, contracted to clean up the inn after the federal government took over the property, kept it. A judge ordered its return to the feds. The U.S. Marshals Service has it now.

Jay Stange, the president of the Spenard Community Council, and the only bidder for the sign so far, says if his bid wins he'd like to see the sign fixed and returned to Spenard. He's asking people who donate to the campaign to also give their ideas about what should be done with it.

"One idea is to put it on a trailer and to bring it around to different Spenard areas, and say for example you get married in Spenard, we could bring the palm tree to your wedding," Stange said.

He also said his favorite idea is to keep it close to its original location and donate it to the city as a piece of art, a Spenard landmark.

"We'd like to keep the funky palm tree," Stange said. "Why not? It's part of us. If Portland can stay weird, why can't Spenard stay funky?"

Stange says the neon palm tree represents Spenard.

"Imagine if you lived downtown and you woke up and the 4th Avenue Theater was gone, imagine you lived on the Hillside and you woke up and Flattop was gone," Stange said. "The earth shook here in Spenard and the Paradise Inn neon sign is gone and we'd really like it back for our community."

Bidding closes July 10.