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The Waterfront’s Fine, But It Could Be Finer

Portland planners and public generate new ideas to connect people and places to the Willamette River

Waterfront Park photo

Portland’s beautiful summers draw people outside in droves. On any given day, people can be seen biking, floating on the river, playing with children in public fountains, attending a festival or concert, or simply basking in the sunshine. Waterfront Park welcomes all who come to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, many of which are concentrated along the Willamette River. 

During a week-long charrette in June, city planners and other stakeholders worked through ideas to improve the West Quadrant of the Central City. One of the recurring themes from the exercises was reimagining the role of the Willamette River and Waterfront Park — how to improve people’s access to the river as well as their experience in and around it, all while making the river more of a focal point of the Central City. Charrette participants helped to identify the following goals for the river: 

Waterfront sketch

  • Create better physical, visual and social connections with the river
  • Generate more activity along the river and
     Naito Parkway
  • Support big changes to help achieve goals of health, activity and vibrancy
  • Update 2003 Waterfront Park Master Plan to reflect current desires and needs 
Naito Parkway drawing
Waterfront Park already connects people with the river, but improving this connection could provide a more significant experience. In the 2003 Waterfront Park Master Plan, Portlanders envisioned a new plaza in Waterfront Park that would gradually step down towards the river. Creating a more vibrant mixed-use Naito Parkway would also help to connect people to the river from downtown. 


Many other cities across the country have also realized the importance of and added benefits that come with engaging residents with their waterfronts. Louisville, Kentucky’s Waterfront Park has become nationally recognized for reconnecting residents with the river. 

Nashville Waterfront

In Nashville,Tennessee, plans for waterfront redevelopment include removing a seawall and replacing it with a sloped park that provides direct river access and more intimate interactions with nature.

Enhancing Waterfront Park is just one of big ideas that came out of the West Quadrant Charrette. Stay tuned over the next month as we feature other themes that emerged from the process. Next up: Housing and Neighborhoods!


Inner SE Station Area Charrette in Progress August 20-22

Starting Tuesday, August 20, the City of Portland is hosting a concept development charrette focusing on the new light rail stations areas at OMSI, Clinton, Rhine and Holgate. The charrette will build on input from planning events held in June and July to develop initial land use, urban design and transportation concepts for the station areas.

Come to the Open House to see the results of the charrette and offer feedback!

Inner SE Station Area Charrette Open House
Thursday August 22, 2013, 5 – 7 p.m. (presentation at 6 p.m.)
St. Philip Neri Church, Carvlin Hall
2408 SE 16th Ave

The first two days of the charrette will involve focused work sessions where City staff and consultants will work with area stakeholders around maps to generate ideas and explore issues. The results will be presented at the open house on the third day.

View the charrette agenda.


PSC News: August 13, 2013 meeting recap and documents

RICAP 6 Workplan — hearing / decision; Central City 2035: West and Southeast Quadrants — briefing


  • RICAP 6 Workplan hearing / decision
  • Central City 2035: West and Southeast Quadrants briefing

Meeting files

** If you receive an error message, click the icon to the right of "Contained Records" to open the document listing.

An archive of meeting minutes, documents and audio recordings of all Planning and Sustainability Commission meetings are available at

In the Heart of the City, a Place to Call Home

The second post in a month-long series about ideas for the Central City’s West Quadrant

West Quadrant Housing

The West Quadrant of Portland’s Central City is a place for work, learning and play. While it serves as a major employment hub for the city, it also offers a wide range of recreational activities, fine dining, nightlife, and other amenities that create a lively civic atmosphere. As a result, the West Quadrant has increasingly become an attractive place for residential development with several well-established urban neighborhoods, including the Pearl District and Goose Hollow. 

Future housing development should include a range of affordability and types. Charrette participants expressed interest in targeting particular types of housing in certain areas. For example, family-friendly housing should be targeted in areas with amenities such as parks and schools for children. There are some challenges, however, to achieving diverse, vibrant neighborhoods in the West Quadrant, including available tools to create a range of housing options.

During the West Quadrant Charrette in June, participants identified the need for at least some housing in every district to increase livability and appeal — even in employment-focused areas. There is ample development capacity to accommodate significant new development for housing. But with housing sprinkled more evenly throughout the West Quadrant, better residential services and improved connections to services will be needed.

An example of where this could happen is along the downtown waterfront, near Waterfront Park. At the heart of the city and as the major employment center for the entire metropolitan region, downtown could be a more desirable place to live. More housing near the waterfront could dramatically increase evening and weekend activity in the area, as well as improve public safety and help businesses thrive and attract a diverse workforce.

Portland's west end photo

In the West Quadrant, a great model of a district in which people can work, play and live is the West End, located west of downtown between the Park Blocks and the I-405 freeway. With a diverse mix of housing, employment, entertainment and retail offerings, the West End has transformed in recent years into a culturally rich and desirable neighborhood. While not New York City with round-the-clock activity, the West End features lots of amenities for residents and visitors alike.

Other areas of the West Quadrant could also be transformed into unique places, busy with the bustle of employees heading to or from work — who could also enjoy the offerings of their neighborhood after work and on the weekends.

Creating more residential options and enhancing the West Quadrant’s neighborhoods is just one of the big ideas that came out of the West Quadrant Charrette. Stay tuned over the coming weeks as we feature other themes that emerged from the process. Next up: Active transportation!