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Portland: Developments and News

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After many years of failed attempts, a redevelopment of the 14 acre USPS facility in the Pearl District is finally moving forward. The Portland Development Commission has acquired the property, which is prime real estate, located right next to Portland Union Station and right beside a number of streetcar and light rail routes.

 

Here's what the development could look like:

 

broadway_corridor_charrette_04_img_01.jpg

 

Here's what the site looks like now.

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That greenspace is silly, considering Jamison Park is a block away.  One little greenspace would be fine but two/three blocks worth?  Please.


"You don't just walk into a bar and mix it up by calling a girl fat" - buildingcincinnati speaking about new forumers

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Well that pleases me.


"You don't just walk into a bar and mix it up by calling a girl fat" - buildingcincinnati speaking about new forumers

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I just came back from Portland and I'm very impressed by the amount of development that has happened since my last visit 4 years ago.

 

Pearl District continues to grow block by block and almost all of the vacant blocks have now been filled with new development. It seems like some of the smaller, warehousey buildings have been demolished and replaced with larger structures. For reference, here's how the "neighborhood" looked before and what it looks like now. I would say it's mostly built out except for the new Broadway Corridor project replacing the USPS facility.

 

South Waterfront has grown a lot as well. On my last visit, the area just felt like a few modern glass towers were thrown up in a former brownfield site. This visit, it actually feels like a neighborhood. Two new OHSU buildings and several more residential buildings have gone up, there was lots of activity in the park, storefronts filled with businesses catering to the neighborhood residents, etc. A local resident was telling me about the Zidell Yards development which is a massive plan to redevelop the last remaining gap between Tilikum Crossing (new light rail bridge) and the aerial tram, but is apparently on hold right now due to a dispute between the developer and the city. There is also some discussion that if Portland lands an MLB team, that site could be used for the new stadium. It would be about the perfect location transit-wise, right next to a transit/ped/bike only bridge that carries the new light rail and streetcar extensions, and the aerial tram as well.

 

Finally, things are finally starting to happen east of the river along the latest streetcar extension. Parking lots are being replaced by new infill buildings near many of the streetcar stops. There is still a long way to go, however, as those streets are still very pedestrian unfriendly (the streetcar runs on one-way six-lane-wide streets in this area). Hopefully they can figure out a way to convert those streets to two-way eventually and do some traffic calming. I know that'll be difficult with all of the highway ramps but that should be their eventual goal.

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Hey all - I think this is the most appropriate thread to share this in, but mods can let me know if I am wrong. 

 

I spent three days in Portland last week - and I have never had such mixed feelings about a place in my life. Some thoughts:

 

THE POSITIVE

  1. The city itself is marvelous. It is extremely well planned, pedestrian friendly, and the city has done an excellent job encouraging property owners to find creative uses for formerly blank spaces. The building I was working in had an entirely glass Apple store affixed to it, facing the street. The space it occupies was formerly empty, with no street interaction (almost exactly the same as front of PNC Building downtown *cough* Apple store there *cough*) https://www.google.com/maps/@45.5181104,-122.6779061,3a,75y,161.6h,98.48t/data=!3m5!1e1!3m3!1sA8-C5WN--6eZvpTXWkZy0Q!2e0!6s%2F%2Fgeo3.ggpht.com%2Fcbk%3Fpanoid%3DA8-C5WN--6eZvpTXWkZy0Q%26output%3Dthumbnail%26cb_client%3Dmaps_sv.tactile.gps%26thumb%3D2%26w%3D203%26h%3D100%26yaw%3D310.3037%26pitch%3D0%26thumbfov%3D100
  2. I've never experienced a city that was so vibrant, but felt small and intimate in the way Portland did. Every street downtown was tree-lined, all streets were one way, and the sidewalks were wide and inviting. 
  3. I walked everywhere I went. In one night downtown I walked to a) the Timbers Stadium b) Powell's Bookstore [a must if you visit] c) a hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant d) crossed the river to check out the neighborhoods e) and back to my hotel. All intersections are quickly timed and clearly delineated for pedestrian use. 
  4. The locals were very kind and inviting and made me feel overwhelmingly welcome. 

THE NEGATIVE

  1. The homelessness was overwhelming. I've never seen anything like it - worse than Seattle, Boston, Chicago, Houston, imo. Homeless people were everywhere and, while I didn't once feel threatened, I did encounter some serious hygiene issues on the streets. 
  2. This probably ties into #1, but I've never encountered so many people either mentally ill or under the influence of something seriously mind altering. On the walk I referenced above I:
    1. Had a man stop me and insist that I tell him if Jim Jones' soul had been saved.
    2. Saw a woman urinating and taking a hair brush and rubbing it into the sidewalk
    3. A young lady, maybe 16-17 was shaving her head in random patches on Pioneer Square.

 

Overall, the city is great if you know what to expect. But, it felt at times like a dystopian novel - with thousands of upper-middle class, majority progressive people surrounding a de facto homeless encampment that stretched the entirety of downtown. 

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^ You can copy/past "The Negative" for San Diego too. Same deal. There's just no political will to actually do anything about helping these people. 

 

 

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The higher number (or maybe just higher visibility) of people experiencing homelessness isn't unique to Portland, though, I've observed it in all west coast cities I've visited. I don't think it's any more extreme in Portland than it is in Seattle, San Francisco, LA, San Diego, etc. However, like you said, I haven't found these people to be threatening at all. I've experienced much more aggressive with panhandling in Cincinnati than what I ever have on the west coast.

 

The small city blocks result in a very fine-grained urbanism, and you feel like you can just keep walking and walking forever, exploring new parts of the city. You have to get pretty far from the city center before you get to any areas that feel "dead" and devoid of street life.

 

The other thing I notice whenever I'm in Portland (and Seattle too) is the amount of respect drivers have for pedestrians. As soon as you walk up to a crosswalk, traffic stops to let you cross. On several occasions I have been standing near the street taking a photo, and cars have stopped thinking I'm trying to cross the street. The culture is just completely different than other parts of the country -- drivers understand that people crossing the street are just "normal" people trying to go somewhere, just like drivers are, as opposed to other cities where there is much more of a class divide and drivers look down at transit riders, cyclists, and pedestrians.

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I need to get back up to Portland soon. The homelessness is an unfortunate reality in every major West Coast city. Tent camping on the sidewalks is pretty much the new norm and while most are harmless, there are some who are quite aggressive and unpredictable. 

 

On my last visit to Portland, the biggest take away I had was how homogeneous it felt. It's very odd to be in a major American city and basically only see white people. I know they have a decent Asian population and perhaps a growing Hispanic population as well, but I don't remember seeing much in the way of either. The black population is minuscule and I don't think I saw a single black person there my whole visit. Beyond race, though, it felt like most people were kind of the same type. Somewhat quirky looking, hipsterish people everywhere.

 

Oregon also has quite a history of white supremacist movements, and there is an extreme divide between the urban liberals and the lumberjack types in the country. The Republicans in their state legislature just fled the statehouse to avoid a quorum so a vote could be held on a bill on climate change, and said lumberjack types formed militia groups to protect them! That's a level of crazy even Ohio Republicans would have a hard time outdoing. Idk...Oregon is pretty, but not somewhere I'd like to live.

Edited by edale

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41 minutes ago, edale said:

The Republicans in their state legislature just fled the statehouse to avoid a quorum so a vote could be held on a bill on climate change, and said lumberjack types formed militia groups to protect them! That's a level of crazy even Ohio Republicans would have a hard time outdoing. Idk...Oregon is pretty, but not somewhere I'd like to live.

Interesting points for discussion. I'd posit that there's indeed something about "the West" that brings out or allows a higher level of fringe beliefs and behavior, for better or for worse. Very different than the veritable conformist police state I experienced in New Jersey. 

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58 minutes ago, edale said:

I need to get back up to Portland soon. The homelessness is an unfortunate reality in every major West Coast city. Tent camping on the sidewalks is pretty much the new norm and while most are harmless, there are some who are quite aggressive and unpredictable. 

 

On my last visit to Portland, the biggest take away I had was how homogeneous it felt. It's very odd to be in a major American city and basically only see white people. I know they have a decent Asian population and perhaps a growing Hispanic population as well, but I don't remember seeing much in the way of either. The black population is minuscule and I don't think I saw a single black person there my whole visit. Beyond race, though, it felt like most people were kind of the same type. Somewhat quirky looking, hipsterish people everywhere.

 

Oregon also has quite a history of white supremacist movements, and there is an extreme divide between the urban liberals and the lumberjack types in the country. The Republicans in their state legislature just fled the statehouse to avoid a quorum so a vote could be held on a bill on climate change, and said lumberjack types formed militia groups to protect them! That's a level of crazy even Ohio Republicans would have a hard time outdoing. Idk...Oregon is pretty, but not somewhere I'd like to live.

 

Very homogeneous. I saw considerably more people of color in Boston, for crying out loud. 

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5 hours ago, edale said:

Oregon also has quite a history of white supremacist movements, and there is an extreme divide between the urban liberals and the lumberjack types in the country. The Republicans in their state legislature just fled the statehouse to avoid a quorum so a vote could be held on a bill on climate change, and said lumberjack types formed militia groups to protect them! That's a level of crazy even Ohio Republicans would have a hard time outdoing. Idk...Oregon is pretty, but not somewhere I'd like to live.

 

The big difference compared to Ohio is that the "two sides" in Oregon are much more willing to come together to implement smart policies. For example, the urbanites who want stronger cities and the rural residents who want to keep the farmland undeveloped came together and implemented urban growth boundaries and other smart growth policies. There seems to be more mutual respect and acknowledgement that some people want an urban lifestyle with walkability, transit access, culture, etc., while others want a rural lifestyle with little development. (Maybe it's less of a "mutual respect" a more of a truce -- you stay over there and we'll stay over here. I dunno.)

 

Oregon also has a really interesting system where each urban area is required to have a regional government which has specific power and responsibilities. To be clear, this is totally separate from the city and county governments. Greater Portland's regional government is called Metro and it has 7 council members elected by the people (6 districts and 1 at-large). It serves as the metropolitan planning organization for Greater Portland (similar to OKI in Greater Cincinnati), meaning they are responsible for growth and development policies, any expansion of the urban growth boundary, and regional transportation (although TriMet is a currently run as a separate organization). They also manage affordable housing programs, run the regional park system, the zoo, the convention center, landfills, etc. So it a way, it's like Oregon has taken all of the planning powers away from their county governments and given it to a new regional body that is purely focused on those issues, which allows the region to think holistically rather than having the county vs. county fights that seems to happen in other urbanized areas around the country.

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i stumbled over and around a dozen homeless this morning on the way to work from my apt into the subway station directly below. then got harranged by a homeless guy on the train. its out of control. seems like it's a terrible problem everywhere. 

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