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The City of Portland, Oregon

Planning and Sustainability

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University District/South Downtown

Photo of South Downtown UniversityUniversity District/South Downtown includes three distinct urban districts: Portland State University (PSU), the South Auditorium blocks and RiverPlace.

With close to 30,000 enrolled students, PSU’s growth and development is guided by the University District Framework Plan (2010). The strategic direction for the Central City as a center for innovation and exchange aligns strongly with PSU and its surrounding area.

The South Auditorium Project, developed in the 1960s, was the city’s first urban renewal area and now includes modern office buildings and apartment towers. The area is connected by a system of Lawrence Halprin-designed parks, fountains and pedestrian pathways.

A community of apartments, condos and ground floor retail, RiverPlace is one of the few places in the Central City with direct access to the water’s edge.

2035 Vision

University District/South Downtown is the livable, accessible home to:

  1. Portland State University, Oregon’s largest university;
  2. South Auditorium District, a unique open space, commercial and residential landscape created by Portland’s first experiment with urban renewal; and
  3. RiverPlace, a dynamic, dense residential and commercial district with an intimate relationship to the Willamette River.

While each of these three areas has its distinct character, they are well connected to each other and to adjacent districts with multi-modal facilities, including light rail and streetcar. In combination they provide the setting for a growing international, multi-cultural center of learning, fostering information exchange and innovation. The district plays a key role in accommodating and incubating the Portland region’s growing cluster of knowledge-based, research-oriented enterprises while remaining an attractive, vibrant and livable residential area.

2035 Vision 3D Map

Between 2010 and 2035, University District/South Downtown is expected to grow by 3,000 households and 4,000 jobs, for a total of 6,200 households and 14,400 jobs. This rendering illustrates a possible development scenario approximating future growth. The arrows illustrate a potential “Green Loop” alignment and key flexible street connections leading to the river and adjacent neighborhoods.

Key Elements

  • Develop a key “Green Loop” connection between the South Park Blocks and SW Moody Street
  • Focus new retail activity on 4th Avenue, College and Broadway
  • Improve multi-modal connections across I-405
  • Strengthen routes to the Willamette River

Urban Design Concept

South Downtown University Urban Design ConceptUniversity District/South Downtown has three distinct subareas, each with its own unique character:

  1. Portland State University (PSU)
  2. South Auditorium District, including the Halprin Open Space Sequence
  3. RiverPlace

Major attractions include Portland State University. Key intersections and gateways include PSU’s Urban Plaza bounded by SW 5th, 6th, Mill and Montgomery.

The diagram shows a potential I-405 cap at SW 1st Avenue, which could offer new open space opportunities and stronger connections to the south.

The concept diagram also highlights the desired retail/commercial character of SW Broadway, SW College Street, and SW 4th Avenue and the boulevard character of Naito Parkway, SW 1st, and 5th and 6th avenues.

A potential Green Loop alignment is shown toward the southern end of the district, as well as the southerly extensions of the SW 2nd and 3rd pedestrian paths, connecting the South Auditorium District and PSU to the Tilikum Crossing and the greenway trail.

View full-size maps in the PDF version of the Central City Districts.

Read about the Goals and Policies in the Draft Plan that will help with implementing the 2035 Vision and Urban Design Concept.