Portland Japanese Garden Breaks Ground on 18-Month Construction Project
Sept. 1, 2015
Portland, Ore. – On Monday, August 31, the Portland Japanese Garden held a groundbreaking ceremony to kick off the Cultural Crossing expansion project. The Garden will close its gates for the first phase of construction, from Sept. 8, 2015-March 1, 2016. 
CEO Stephen Bloom was joined by Jordan Schnitzer, President of Harsch Investment Properties and the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation; Commissioner Nick Fish, City of Portland; and world-renowned architect Kengo Kuma, along with Garden employees, trustees, and volunteers. Kuma reiterated his vision for the expansion: “This project has been a great intersection of client vision, a fantastic site in a great city with culturally minded people, experience of the landscape, and personal philosophy—a lot of passion.”

Shinto priests from the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shinto Shrine in Kamakura, Japan performed a ritual that blessed the expansion, with prayers for the safety of the workers. Then, Bloom and nine others turned over the first shovels-full of dirt, signifying the official groundbreaking.

“Our donors and this generous community made this possible in so many ways,” said Bloom. The Garden has already raised $21 million towards the project’s $33.5 million goal, thanks to a generous $5 million gift from Arlene Schnitzer in honor of her son, Jordan. Japanese Garden Trustees, Oregon State Lottery Bonds, and business leaders and philanthropists in Japan contributed significantly as well. The Garden also received $500,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities, one of only 12 grants of this magnitude given in 2014. 

“The Garden is a living place,” said Jordan Schnitzer. “It is organic; it changes and evolves. It serves a changing community. Like the plants and trees here, we must grow or go. The vision we had 25 years ago is coming to fruition under the leadership of Steve Bloom, who is without peer. As stewards of this special place, we follow those who came before us, and guide the leaders who will come after us.”

The Cultural Crossing expansion adds seven new garden spaces, as well as three LEED-certified buildings where guests can socialize, learn more about Japanese culture, and enjoy traditionally prepared tea in the Garden’s first-ever tea café. 

A key driver of the project is the development of the International Institute for Japanese Garden Art & Culture. Historically, Japanese gardening is passed down from one generation to the next. The Institute will transform the traditional apprentice-based study of Japanese garden arts into a widely accessible education program. The new Institute will be open to students of all levels and will feature classes, lectures, demonstrations, and workshops. For those who are devoted to long-term study, the Institute will provide a comprehensive, sequenced curriculum, leading to professional certification.

The Garden will reopen in March 2016, when the first phase of construction is complete. Visitors will be able to enjoy the familiar sights of cherry blossoms in the Garden’s iconic landscape. Construction will then continue through the next year, until the 18-month project’s is scheduled completion in the spring of 2017.

About the Portland Japanese Garden

For 52 years, the Portland Japanese Garden has been a haven of serenity and tranquility, nestled in the scenic West Hills of Portland. It is considered the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan and is one of the foremost Japanese cultural organizations in North America. Visit online at, and follow the construction’s progress at
Media Coverage

Japanese Garden Breaks Ground on New Expansion - GoLocalPDX
Groundbreaking at Japanese Garden - PORT:
Portland Japanese Garden Expansion Groundbreaking - The Oregonian
An Architectural Legend's Appearance Highlights Japanese Garden Groundbreaking - Portland Business Journal