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Planning and Sustainability

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Big Ideas

Big Ideas intro

1. Celebrate Portland's Civic and Cultural Life
2. Foster Creativity, Innovation and Productivity
3. Enhance the Willamette for People and Wildlife
4. Design Streets to be Great Places
5. Develop the Next Generation of Public Space: The "Green Loop"
6. Increase the Resilience of the Central City


Celebrate Portland's Civic and Cultural Life

Civic and Cultural Center rendering

The Central City is more than just a center for commerce. It is an incubator of civic culture and action. Portland’s city center is home to myriad venues, historical and cultural assets, public spaces, and recreational attractions — a place people from the entire region can enjoy.

This plan embraces existing institutions and attractions such as Pioneer Square, Waterfront Park, the Lan Su Chinese Garden and Schnitzer Auditorium, OMSI, the Moda Center and more. The plan also calls for encouraging new attractions, particularly those that connect with communities that might not otherwise feel a strong tie to the Central City.


Foster Creativity, Innovation and Productivity

Innovation Quadrant rendering

Historically, cities are uniquely productive places. They bring together a mix of people, ideas, businesses and investments that create opportunities, inventions and jobs. Cities can be particularly productive where universities, research institutions and businesses cross pollinate and collaborate. In Portland, the Innovation Quadrant — which spans from South Waterfront to the top of Markham Hill, and the University District to the Central Eastside — could be such a place.

The plan supports growth in the Innovation Quadrant, building on synergies between OHSU, PSU, OMSI and Portland CommunityCollege as well as businesses and research enterprises.


Enhance the Willamette for People and Wildlife

Focus on the Willamette River rendering

Perhaps more than anything else, the Willamette River has shaped the development of Portland and the Central City. The Willamette is integral to the city’s history, identity and place in the region. The 1988 Plan called for “embracing the river,” so parks, plazas, trails and other uses were added to
the riverfront. But there is still great potential for the waterfront on both sides of the river.

The CC2035 plan promotes a 21st-century urban riverfront that supports the health of both wildlife and people. Better water quality and more habitat increase fish and wildlife populations. Swimming, boating and paddling in the river help make the Willamette a natural element of healthy living. The quality of public spaces as well as new development and activity on Naito Parkway will also bring more people to the riverfront, honoring the cultural, historical, economic and ecological significance of the Willamette River.


Design Streets to be Great Places

Street Hierarchy and Development rendering

Portland’s Central City is blessed with streets that are narrow and blocks that are short, full of people who are biking and strolling, window shopping, eating at outdoor cafes, and enjoying the sights and sounds of the city center. These streets, sidewalks, intersections and building frontages are a big part of the public realm. And the design and use of these spaces has been the secret to creating the Central City’s best public places.

To optimize the use of the entire network of public spaces, CC2035 rethinks the role of Central City streets. Most of these streets handle relatively high volumes of multimodal traffic, but they have different characters: some are great retail streets; some are better for office or residential uses; others offer views of signature landmarks or regional features; and still others may be able to take on a quieter and more flexible role for a variety of activities. By considering the street network in terms of these different roles, the Central City’s most accessible public spaces can become a more varied, rich and inclusive set of great places for more people.


Develop the Next Generation of Public Space: The "Green Loop"

Green Loop rendering

With new street organization and larger efforts to repurpose public rights-of-way for better community use, CC2035 calls for the development of the “Green Loop.” A roughly six-mile linear park with bicycle and pedestrian facilities under a green tree canopy, the Loop will invite residents, workers and visitors to experience the Central City in an entirely new way.

A key element of the city’s active transportation network and Citywide Greenway System, the Green Loop will offer thousands of people an easy and safe way to walk, jog or bike the Central City. This urban promenade will promote healthier lifestyles and connect people to amenities and each other. It will link neighborhoods, retail and employment centers, civic and cultural institutions, parks and attractions to each other and the rest of Portland. Finally, it will attract people of all ages and abilities from throughout the region to enjoy safe, green and active recreation.

Read about the Central City Districts or view the Goals and Policies document to see how the Big Ideas informed the draft Central City 2035 Plan.


Increase the Resilience of the Central City

A resilient city is one that can better respond to forces outside its control. It is a city that has the business, workforce and social strength to recover from economic downturns. It has the infrastructure and resources to recover from a natural disaster. And it has the foresight and commitment to prepare for the impacts of climate change. By focusing on resilience, we can ensure the Central City remains a great place for current and future generations.

The plan strives for greater economic resilience by encouraging diversity in the mix of businesses and workforce opportunities in the Central City. It strives for greater social resilience by preserving and increasing affordable housing in the Central City, allowing particularly vulnerable households access to the infrastructure, services and opportunities there. The plan also promotes environmental and natural hazard resilience through land use policies, seismic incentives, strategic investments in infrastructure and green systems, a more diverse transportation network and lower carbon emissions from new development.