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Big ideas for the West Quadrant coming into focus

More than 75 people (including Mayor Charlie Hales) attended the West Quadrant Plan Open House in City Hall on March 10. The following comments — and many more — were offered about the area:

  • “Include habitat features in the [along the river] to attract water birds, beavers and otters.”
  • “Asian ‘night market’ one night a week (seasonal) to attract tourists and locals.”
  • “Development of good, rich, mixed-use residential along Front Ave is imperative.”
  • “I-405 is a true barrier – bridging and stitching over/under is the opportunity [in the Pearl].”

The project team, including staff from BPS and the Portland Bureau of Transportation, shared revised goals, policies and actions for each of the seven districts within the quadrant. They also presented ideas for different transportation modes (e.g., bikes, pedestrians, transit), along with the Green Loop and the Willamette River Central Reach Urban Design Concept.

At one of the stations, a group of PSU graduate students calling themselves Watermark Planning presented their ideas to “Activate the Waterfront.” As part of the Masters in Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) program, the group is working with the West Quadrant team to address challenges in the area, including:

“… Few opportunities exist for park visitors to engage directly with the river and Portland’s downtown waterfront lacks vibrancy, largely as the result of difficult or unclear connections to the city’s central business district, surrounding neighborhoods and the eastside.”

Several people came to talk about Old Town/Chinatown, advocating for revitalizing the area while preserving the significant architectural and cultural resources in the district as well as the strong Asian community ties. As BPS Planner Nicholas Starin was quoted in The Oregonian recently, staff researched other Old Towns in cities like Seattle and Los Angeles to learn how they preserved these vital parts of their urban core. One of the more successful elements in these other districts is a multicultural museum, which is part of the action plan for Portland’s Old Town/Chinatown. Such a resource would acknowledge and celebrate the rich cultural history of the city’s oldest neighborhood and its Greek, Jewish, Roma, Chinese and Japanese populations over the past 165 years.

Other big ideas emerging from the West Quadrant planning process are to:

  • Create a greater variety of housing types in the district, including market-rate and workforce housing.
  • Provide separate lanes and signage for bicyclists and pedestrians along Waterfront Park to resolve the bike/pedestrian conflicts, especially when it’s crowded.
  • Refine building height limits to ensure they meet future demand for density, open space, light and view sheds.
  • Establish a system and standards for streets that emphasize pedestrian, bicycle, transit and freight access while continuing to provide automobile access.
  • Give the bridgeheads more generous height limits to create a greater sense of place where these vehicular conduits meet the river.

This round of public input is concluding, but you can still provide input until 5 p.m. March 24 via the WQP Virtual Open House webpage. Over the past few months, the project team made more than 400 individual contacts with Portlanders, through Neighborhood Association and community meetings, one-on-one conversations, and Stakeholder Advisory and Technical Advisory Committee meetings. Staff will consider this feedback as they refine the goals and policies, district plans and maps for a proposed draft, to be presented to the Planning and Sustainability Commission over the summer. The West Quadrant Concept Plan will then go to City Council for adoption.