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Planning charrettes generate big ideas for the Central City

Char • rette \ shuh-ret \ n. an intense period of design or planning activity, often used to bring together multiple stakeholders and generate many ideas during one timeframe. Derived from a French term meaning small cart, "charrette" refers to a cart pushed through the drawing studios whenever final projects were due at the famous architecture school Ecoles des Beaux Arts in Paris. It was not uncommon for 19th-century French architecture students to be frantically finishing presentations "en charrette."

While the mood was more about focused collaboration than frantic individual efforts during two recent BPS-led planning charrettes, participants literally rolled up their sleeves to help forge a new vision for the southeast and west quadrants of Portland’s Central City.


West Quadrant Plan charrette focuses on river, housing, pedestrians and cyclists

Home to the oldest neighborhoods and tallest buildings in the City of Portland, the western part of Portland’s Central City is a diverse and eclectic place. The West Quadrant Plan aims to guide the next 20 to 25 years of growth, development and major investments in the area. Roughly at mid-point in the planning process, the project team convened a charrette to synthesize the research and ideas gathered so far with stakeholders and the public in order to move into the next phase of the project ― concept planning.

Over the course of a week in June, BPS staff, colleagues from other bureaus, stakeholders, community members as well as planning consultants brainstormed new approaches to planning for the many unique areas in the West Quadrant. For instance, they considered entertainment in Old Town/Chinatown, the emerging retail needs in the University District, neighborhood services in Goose Hollow and new residential opportunities in the Downtown core.

Some of the major themes that emerged from the charrette include:

  • Rethink connections and access to the Willamette River, including possible improvements to Waterfront Park.
  • Increase opportunities for residential development throughout the quadrant.
  • Create a more well-defined bicycle and pedestrian system to ensure safe and efficient movement through the quadrant for all travelers.


Colorful maps, beautiful sketches and the report from the WQP charrette are included in the Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) meeting #5 packet .

The West Quadrant Plan project team is refining quadrant-level concept maps and will share them at a public open house in September. For information about the project in general and to sign up for project updates, please visit the project webpage.


Inner Southeast MAX station areas have their own charrette

Earlier this summer, the SE Quadrant Plan kicked off with the Inner SE Station Area Planning process, which will update the vision and long-range plan for the areas around the four new close-in light rail stations at OMSI, Clinton, Rhine and Holgate. In June and July, property and business owners, residents, employees and other stakeholders gathered at community meetings and neighborhood walks to discuss the future character of the area, and opportunities and challenges associated with the new light rail stations.

Building on that community feedback, the project team held a three-day concept development charrette and open house in the Central Eastside from August 20-22. During the first two days of the charrette, staff and consultants worked with area stakeholders to develop alternative land use, urban design and transportation concepts for the four station areas. Staff then shared the results of the work from the charrette with the public at an open house.

Find out more about the Station Area Charrette.

In addition to the close-in southeast station areas on the new Portland-Milwaukie light rail alignment, the SE Quadrant and Inner SE Station Area Planning process will involve detailed planning for the entire Central Eastside District of the Central City.

The SE Quadrant Plan process, which will formally begin in the fall of 2013, is an element of the broader Central City 2035 (CC2035) project to update the 1988 Central City Plan. It will examine the long-term role and character of the Central Eastside, exploring ways to leverage new investment with an emphasis on increasing employment opportunities and revitalizing mixed-use corridors. As a result of this effort, new policies, urban design concepts and potential zoning updates will emerge to guide future growth and development.

For more information, please visit