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Portland's Central Eastside: Riverfront District

The SE Quadrant riverfront area could potentially be one of the most attractive places in the Central City.

Initial development along the east bank of the Willamette was shaped by the sloughs, inlets and stream channels that flowed into the river. Bridges and trestles dominated the street network, and soon these facilities were linked to docks, which facilitated the movement of produce and connected the City of Portland with East Portland via ferry. As time passed, larger docks and other river-dependent uses emerged, dominating the east bank of the river until the middle of the 20th century.

Today the Central Eastside is often overlooked as a waterfront district because so much of it is cut off from the river by I-5. Yet despite this barrier, the east bank of the Willamette has much to offer and great potential for the future.

Eastbank Esplanade

Opened in 2001, the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade restored public access to the Willamette for inner Southeast Portland residents and established a high-performing pedestrian and bicycle loop for the Central City’s waterfront. Although much of the waterfront remains cut off from direct access to the river by the freeway, the Esplanade is well connected to the Hawthorne, Morrison, Burnside and Steel bridges.

OMSI

Built around and incorporating the historic Station L power plant, the popular Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) features a planetarium, OMNIMAX Theater and several thousand square feet of interactive display space. Since its inception, OMSI has acquired additional land and is currently in the second phase of developing a master plan for future museum expansion. The museum may pursue a mix of other uses it hopes can support its growth, while creating a more vibrant presence along the waterfront as well as at the nearby light rail station set to open in 2015.

Portland Spirit

With 200 employees and a fleet of four dinner boats, Portland Spirit runs more than 2,000 cruises annually on the lower Willamette and Columbia Rivers. The company’s Central Eastside facilities contain its maintenance facility, main office and a 500-ft dock for its current fleet. The company hopes to someday provide high-speed ferry service to Lake Oswego and Vancouver, Wash. These existing and envisioned facilities and services could connect the OMSI station area to the region in a way not possible elsewhere, adding to a vibrant eastside waterfront district.

Ross Island Sand & Gravel

In addition to mining the island for decades, Ross Island Sand and Gravel also operates a concrete batch plant — perhaps the only true waterfront industrial use remaining in the Central Eastside. This facility still depends upon its waterfront location to load and unload materials from barges, providing visitors to the OMSI-Springwater Trail with an opportunity to view one of the last waterfront industrial uses in the Central City.

New Opportunities

Stakeholders have consistently expressed a desire for the new light rail station at OMSI to become a catalyst for the development of a more accessible and vibrant waterfront district. Proximity to the water and regional transit were seen as major opportunities to establish numerous public amenities, such as new open space areas and expanded visitor destinations at OMSI and Portland Opera. The area was also identified as a key location for making stronger connections between the Central Eastside and institutions on the west side of the river, as well as between inner eastside neighborhoods and the Willamette River. A new home for the Portland Boathouse, Oregon Maritime Museum and potentially regional high speed ferry service were also explored. More work needs to be done to explore the feasibility of these ideas through the planning process, but the desire to restore the Central Eastside into a vibrant waterfront district seems to be shared by many.

 

This is the twelfth installment of a blog series aimed at exploring the past, present, and future of the Central Eastside. To learn more about the river district in the Central Eastside and the planning efforts for the district, read the Central Eastside Reader and visit the SE Quadrant Plan calendar to learn about future events.

From St. Johns to East Portland to the Southwest Hills: The City is updating the Comprehensive Plan

More land, people and technology mean a massive undertaking for BPS and our community stakeholders

The City of Portland is updating its Comprehensive Plan — something that only happens every 20 to 30 years. Covering nearly 145 square miles, it’s a massive undertaking for any jurisdiction, and Portland is no exception.

Nearly half the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability is working on some part of the Comprehensive Plan Update — from the district liaisons who work closely with community members, economic planners and demographers, to urban designers, communications and outreach staff, interns and the technical services team responsible for the interactive Map App and web design.

Portland has only created one Comprehensive Plan before, and that was adopted almost 35 years ago. Today’s advances in technology provide planners with so much more information and data that it takes more time to analyze and apply the findings to our work.

There’s definitely more to consider this time around. Portland is a third again as big as it was then, mostly due to annexation. And our increasingly diverse population has grown by 200,000 people.

The issues the plan is addressing are also broader and more complex. In 1980, the key goals of the Comprehensive Plan were to develop vibrant neighborhoods around a robust transit system and reduce air pollution in the Central City.

This new Comprehensive Plan is all that and more. In addition to creating healthy connected neighborhoods all over the city (not just in the inner neighborhoods), this plan aims to encourage job growth, create greenways and habitat corridors for humans and wildlife, increase equity through strategic infrastructure investments, improve resiliency to earthquakes and other natural hazards, and address climate change.

On July 21, the three parts of the Proposed Draft of the Comprehensive Plan will be released. You will be able to review the Comprehensive Plan (Goals and Policies) and Citywide Systems Plan online at www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/pdxcompplan.

An online Map App showing the proposed land use map changes throughout the city will also be available. You can sign up to see a preview of the interactive map by going to:  www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/mapapp. Starting July 21, the public comment period on the Proposed Draft will open, and you’ll be able to make comments directly onto the Map App.

The Proposed Draft is headed to the Planning and Sustainability Commission, and all public feedback will be processed through the commission. Tips for testifying in writing or in person are on the PSC website

Please visit the Comprehensive Plan Update page, www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/pdxcompplan for more information.  

Creating more jobs in the Central Eastside

July 8 open house features new ideas for industry, transportation

charretteTake a walk, a ride or a drive around Portland’s Central Eastside, and you can feel the creativity and growth in this unique district. New brew pubs and distilleries are opening up next to old manufacturing facilities. Design and computer-based businesses are setting up shop in old warehouses next to long-time industrial service providers. And more cyclists and pedestrians are enjoying the district’s access to downtown, the river and the amenities on lower Division Street connecting the district with the neighborhood.

Characterized by reasonable rents, distinctive architectural character and proximity to downtown, I-5 and the Willamette, the Central Eastside has seen an 8-percent job growth rate over the past decade, outpacing the rest of the city.

Most commonly identified by OMSI’s big red letters — which can’t be missed, whether you’re near the building, across the river at Waterfront Park or atop Big Pink — this unique part of the Central City is home to one of the country’s few remaining inner city industrial sanctuaries. As this dynamic area evolves, the city is planning for its future with the Southeast Quadrant Plan, part of the Central City 2035 planning process.

Two-day Charrette features new Map App for the SE Quadrant 

During a two-day planning charrette in early June, the Southeast Quadrant Stakeholder Advisory Committee and members of the public gathered at the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. Together they worked through a broad range of topics related to the future of the Central Eastside. Staff and experts were on hand to facilitate small table discussions about how to preserve land for jobs and harmonize transportation types, as well as improving access to green space and the river.

At the charrette, staff unveiled a new interactive map application (map app) featuring map layers of the area with data about building height and age, employment density, traffic signals, bike routes, vegetation and even sewer pipes. With iPads and laptops, participants were able to use the Map App during their conversations about land use issues in the district. The map is a work in progress, and data and layers will be added and updated throughout the project. Visit: http://www.portlandbps.com/gis/seQuad/

Participants expressed broad agreement on the following topics:

  • Maintain the uses and character of the part of the district referred to as the “Industrial Heartland.” Develop new tools that enhance its function of providing industrial manufacturing space.
  • Expand the Employment Opportunity Subarea, which allows a broader range of business types, to all blocks east of 3rd and to the Southern Triangle between the OMSI and Clinton Station Areas. The new MAX Clinton Station area should be a mixed-use area that connects with the surrounding residential areas.
  • The OMSI Station Area should support and respond to the development happening across the River at the South Waterfront, Zidell Property and the new OHSU Schnitzer Campus.
  • Expand river activities near OMSI and further south to include swimming, river transit and habitat restoration for endangered species and education opportunities.
  • Increase open space and green infrastructure throughout the district to support growing resident population and employees. Innovative tools that are appropriate to the character and industrial functions of the Central Eastside are needed.

 

More analysis and discussion is needed in the following areas:

  • The potential for new residential and retail uses in the Clinton Triangle study area north of Clinton, which is currently zoned for general employment.
  • Consider residential development uses at the OMSI Station.
  • Consider north-south bicycle activity along 7th Ave and/or move it to the Grand/MLK couplet to encourage a multi-modal, mixed-use urban core for the district.
  • Discuss whether the area north of Couch St should include some form of Employmen t Opportunity Subarea, to allow for more industrial office users in this area.

 

Staff will use this information to develop draft land use concepts that detail the City’s goals for the district and strategies to meet them.

July 8 Open House 

A public open house on July 8 at the Oregon Rail Heritage Museum from 4 p.m. — 7 p.m. will give the public a chance to learn about and provide input on the emerging concepts for the quadrant. For more information, please visit: http://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/article/493153

The freshest food in town, now easier to find

New mapping tools connect you directly with farmers

CSA veggie basketPurchase a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm share or shop at a farmers market to enjoy healthy foods that are grown for our region and usually harvested on the same day. The only way to get fresher food is to grow it yourself! Two new web maps help you choose from among 63 local CSA farms and over 20 farmers markets in Portland.

Find a CSA farm and connect to your very own farmer

CSA farms deliver nutritious, local food to over 150 drop-off locations and private addresses throughout Portland neighborhoods. Shareholders typically receive weekly shares of seasonal vegetables, and farmers may include fruit, eggs, dairy, meat and poultry. Find a CSA farm that works for you.

In Portland, there’s a farmers market every day of the week

Farmers markets are another way to eat well and support Portland’s local food economy. They can be found all across the city every day of the week, depending on the season. The farmers market map allows shoppers to find a market based on payment options, neighborhood and the day they want to shop.

The money you spend on a CSA share or at a farmers market is an investment in your community.

Over the past few years, farmers market locations have nearly doubled. CSA farms that deliver to Portland have grown from 23 to more than 60, serving nearly 4,000 households.

CSA customers should choose their CSA farmer carefully to determine that he/she has the appropriate experience to deliver an array of quality produce throughout the growing season. Inclusion in the website does not imply City of Portland endorsement of any particular CSA farm or farmers market.

Trails, parks, open space and lots of land hug the Willamette River

Comment on Willamette Greenway Inventory Report (Goal 15) by June 24

Willamette RiverQuestion: Where in the city can you find 1,700 acres of industrial land, 170 acres of commercial land, 300 acres of vacant land, 480 acres of open space, 330 property owners, 16 miles of trails, 13 parks and open spaces, and another 13 docks, ramps and boat launches?

Answer: It’s all part of the 6,727-acre Willamette River Greenway — the land on either side of the river that runs from south of the Sellwood Bridge north to the Columbia River. 

This kind of information and more is presented in the Willamette River Greenway Inventory, which was recently updated by the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. The inventory is an important tool for City planners and the community as they identify and analyze existing conditions along the greenway, and propose map/zoning changes and other strategic actions to improve the riverfront. While the City is also working on an update to the long-range plan for the Central City, the inventory itself does not propose any changes to rules or regulations.

In March, BPS released the updated inventory for public review. Staff shared the results of the inventory at public open houses on May 19 and 29. Now the community is invited to comment on the document in writing or at a hearing before the Planning and Sustainability Commission.

Public Hearing: Willamette Greenway Inventory Report (Goal 15)

Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission

Tuesday, June 24, 6 p.m.

1900 SW 4th Ave, Rm 2500A

In August, the Willamette River Greenway Inventory will go to City Council for consideration.

 

 

For more information about the inventory, contact Debbie Bischoff at Debbie.bischoff@portlandoregon.gov or 503-823-6946.