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Portland’s Central City gets a new long range land use plan to guide growth and development; enhance environment

CC2035 Proposed DraftWhat do Pioneer Courthouse Square, the Pearl, PSU, Waterfront Park, Lloyd Center, South Waterfront and the Transit Mall have in common?

They’re all part of the Central City’s vibrant economic, cultural and civic life. And places and institutions like these are just some of the attractions that draw people here to Portland to live, work and play.

With the publication of the Proposed Draft of the Central City 2035 (CC2035) Plan, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability is sharing the latest version of the area’s land use plan for the future. This new plan will guide growth and development along the Willamette River and in the city center for the next 20 years.

Read the Central City 2035 Proposed Draft

Why is this important?

Portland’s Central City is the center of the metropolitan region, with Oregon’s densest concentration of people and jobs. Home to 32,000 people and 130,000 jobs, the Central City is vital to Portland and the region. From the West End to the Central Eastside, 10 different neighborhoods offer residents, employees and visitors a variety of cultural, educational, employment and recreational opportunities in fewer than five square miles.

But as Portland grows, becomes more diverse and experiences the effects of climate change, the city’s center will face new and increasing challenges.

The CC2035 Plan aims to meet these challenges, while improving and building upon past plans and traditions. The Plan lays the groundwork for a prosperous, healthy, equitable and resilient city center, where people can collaborate, innovate and create a better future together.

21st-century strategies for the city's urban core

A Livable City Center

More and more people are calling Central City their home. With the transformation of the Pearl District into a thriving, walkable neighborhood, we know the area can be more than just a place to work, go to school or recreate. It’s also a really great place to live. Other Central City neighborhoods are poised to become similarly vibrant (think South Waterfront and Lloyd), with housing close to jobs, shops, restaurants, transit, parks and other amenities.

Powerful Tools for Affordable Housing and Historic Preservation

Today, roughly 30 percent of the housing in the city center is affordable. The Plan prioritizes affordable housing and historic preservation by refocusing the height and floor area ratio (FAR) bonus and transfer system primarily around these two initiatives. With the passage of inclusionary housing legislation in the 2016 legislature, Portland is poised to respond to the current shortage of affordable housing with comprehensive inclusionary housing programs. Through the Plan, staff will propose a powerful combination of regulations and incentives to provide enough housing for Portlanders now and into the future.

Employment Center for the Region

The Plan supports strategies and programs to facilitate economic growth in the Central City. One of the big ideas is to support the growth of an Innovation Quadrant in the southern end of the Central City, where industry in the Central Eastside Industrial District and academic researchers at OHSU, PSU and others can collaborate and thrive. New transportation infrastructure will support residents, businesses and freight operations. And a major update to industrial zoning in the Central Eastside will allow a new generation of industrial uses and small manufacturers to grow new businesses there. In addition, a bonus incentive for the Central Eastside is being proposed to increase industrial space on the ground floor of new buildings.   

A Vibrant Willamette River

New land use tools will help protect, provide access to and activate the Willamette River and its banks. The Plan applies an environmental overlay to improve habitat over time, expands the river setback, and allows some small retail structures in Tom McCall Waterfront Park. The Plan also includes a bonus to allow more development FAR in exchange for riverfront open space.

Green Building Tools

With new requirements for eco-roofs, bird-safe building design and LEED registration, the Plan will create a greener, more environmentally healthy Central City. Eco-roofs can reduce heat island effects and provide onsite stormwater management. Bird-friendly building design helps avoid bird collisions with buildings in areas with extensive tree canopy and adjacent to the river. Both efforts to protect natural resources and habitat qualify as elements for LEED Gold certification.

A “Green Loop” for All

A proposed six-mile open space path a few blocks up from the river through the Central City will offer casual cyclists and pedestrians of all ages and abilities a chance to stroll, roll, run or ride bikes through parks and neighborhood business districts. The “Green Loop” is part of a larger effort to expand the use of public rights-of-way into community spaces and improve infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists. It will connect many of the city’s civic and cultural institutions and link Downtown’s iconic parks to the rest of Portland.

Modified Building Heights to Protect Scenic Views and Historic Character

The Plan establishes a building height pattern in the Central City that protects a few select public views of treasured sites like Mt Hood. It also establishes height limits and new regulations within historic districts to ensure compatibility with existing historic character. The Plan retains the basic “step down” to the Willamette River, parks and adjacent neighborhoods, but allows greater height in the Downtown retail core, along the transit mall and around bridgeheads to increase development potential and activate the waterfront. See the CC2035 Map App for site-specific information about height and FAR. 

Better Transportation Choices

Finally, the plan includes many new transportation projects that will enhance access into the Central City and make it easier to walk, bike and use transit. Future projects will address safety at intersections, develop a world-class bicycle network and improve connectivity for pedestrians. The Plan will provide transit improvements that add capacity and enhance reliability, as well as targeted improvements that address safety on freeways and freight operations in industrial areas. 

Proposed Draft incorporates months of public input and involvement

Through the Central City Concept Plan, subsequent quadrant plans and other supporting projects, a set of proposals was carefully stitched together into a Discussion Draft. Following the release of the CC2035 Discussion Draft in February, hundreds of people attended open houses and drop-in hours on both sides of the river over the course of two weeks. Project staff also attended more than 40 meetings with neighborhood associations, property owners and others throughout the Central City. Additionally, community members submitted some 200 written comments and letters by the March 31, 2016, deadline.

The project team considered these comments and input from other agencies and organizations to create the Proposed Draft CC2035 Plan.

Get involved and have your say

The release of the CC2035 Proposed Draft marks the beginning of the formal public legislative process. The public is invited to read the plan and discuss it with family, friends and neighbors ... then testify to the Planning and Sustainability Commission at public hearings in July and August. Testimony may also be submitted in writing by August 9, 2016.

Learn more about public hearings and how to testify in person and in writing.