Design, Planning and Public Spaces - Printable Version - April 20, 2010 - 1 Comments
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Design, Planning and Public Spaces

Why is this important?

Portland is full of important and distinctive places. Places where people like to walk, meet, play and eat. Places that help people find their way around town and places that help shape city form, structure and identity. Portlanders value the individual character of these places. As Portland evolves, it is essential to understand which of Portland’s places we need to protect and enhance and what new places we need to create. Understanding these elements will help us manage growth and integrate development in ways that improve equity and social, economic and environmental sustainability.


Direction 1: Create 20-minute complete neighborhoods

Direction 2: Build on Portland’s distinctive qualities

Direction 3: Cultivate streets as places

Direction 4: Create city greenways and river connections     

Direction 5: Enhance Portland’s major centers

visionPDX Statement:

"Our city is compact, green, dynamic and accessible to all Portlanders. We value our public, open and natural spaces as well as our safe, comfortable streets."

Direction 1: Create 20-minute complete neighborhoods

  • Do the directions seem like they are on the right track?

  • Which of these objectives stand out to you?

  • Which ones are exciting?

  • Is there anything important missing?

  • Will these directions and objectives help reduce disparities and improve equity in Portland?

  • How will we define success?

Objective A: Promote walkable complete neighborhoods

Today, 26% of Portlanders live close enough to parks, businesses, frequent transit service, schools and other amenities to safely and easily walk or bike to meet their daily needs.
By 2035, 90% of Portlanders can safely and easily walk or bike to services and amenities. The street system and built environment makes walking and biking preferred ways of accessing local destinations and transit.

Objective B: Foster vibrant neighborhood business districts

Today, in some neighborhoods, main street commercial districts have become a focus of community activity and identity, but many other areas of the city lack active neighborhood business districts.
By 2035, main streets and other commercial areas are thriving hubs of community activity and services for neighborhoods across the city.

Objective C: Create public space as part of complete neighborhoods

Currently, outside of downtown, our regional or town centers do not have public squares or other significant spaces for public gatherings.
By 2035, all designated regional and town centers (Gateway, Lents, St. Johns, Hollywood, Hillsdale and West Portland) have a public square or other dedicated public gathering space.

Objective D: Increase access to parks

Today, about ¾ of Portlanders live within a ½ mile of a park, some of which are underdeveloped, while public space demands are changing as increasing numbers of people live in multifamily housing without the open space provided by backyards.
By 2035, all Portlanders are within a ½ mile walk of a developed neighborhood park. In centers and other higher-density areas, residents are within ¼ mile of a park, garden, plaza, or other green space that provides high quality recreation and open space experiences.

Direction 2: Build on Portland’s distinctive qualities

Objective A: Protect landmark features

Today, Portland has many prominent features and landmarks, both natural and built, such as hills, bridges, rivers and roads, open spaces and urban crossroads and historic resources that are key to Portland’s sense of place.
By 2035, citywide growth and change is guided in ways that acknowledge, preserve and enhance Portland’s most prominent and cherished features and landmarks. New community landmarks and connections have been created in places of emerging civic importance.

Objective B: Respect neighborhood character

Today, Portland’s neighborhoods have distinct characteristics valued by Portlanders, but regulations tend to follow a “one size fits all” approach that results in development that is often not responsive to community character.
By 2035, the design of new development and public infrastructure respects and enhances the distinctive characteristics of Portland’s neighborhood and districts. These include the three primary neighborhood geographies (Western, Inner and Eastern), the Central City and the industrial districts.

Objective C: Conserve history and energy

Today, historic resources contribute to the identity of Portland. But, large areas of the city lack historic preservation strategies and have also not benefitted from energy retrofits or other efforts that link preservation and sustainability.

By 2035, preservation and reuse of historic buildings is integrated into Portland’s sustainable development strategies. The city has implemented strategies that promote the preservation of historic resources and energy retrofits throughout the city.


Direction 3: Cultivate streets as places

Objective A: Make streets more multifunctional

Today, streets are the most widespread type of public space, occupying 18% of Portland's land area – up to 40% of land in some neighborhoods, and are designed and managed primarily for automobiles.
By 2035, streets serve a broad range of community purposes and some are prioritized for pedestrians and bicycles. Besides helping people get from here to there, they serve as places for community interaction, environmental function, open space, recreation and other community purposes.

Objective B: Promote residential streets as settings for community life:

Currently, there are no measures of Portlanders’ views of how well their streets are serving non-transportation community functions, although they often serve as places where neighbors interact and children play.
By 2035, the majority of Portlanders consider their residential streets as safe places to socialize with neighbors and for children to play.

Objective C: Improve the design of high-profile streets

Today, high-profile streets such as Sandy, Foster, and Barbur, primarily function as transportation thoroughfares, and their most prominent characteristics are often multiple lanes of traffic and large amounts of pavement.
By 2035, Portland’s high-profile major streets have become prominent urban places where increasing numbers of people live and work and whose design and green features are sources of community pride and minimize environmental impacts.

Direction 4: Create citywide greenways and river connections

Objective A: Create a network of city greenways

The region has nearly completed the 40-mile loop giving Portlanders access natural areas around the city, but this popular system of greenways has few connections into neighborhoods.
By 2035, greenways provide attractive pedestrian and bicycle connections to natural areas and link parks, neighborhoods, schools, commercial districts and other destinations. 90% of Portlanders are within a ½ mile of a greenway.

Objective B: Increase public connections to the rivers

Multiple barriers and few access points limit the ability of Portlanders to access the Willamette and Columbia rivers.
By 2035, Portlanders have convenient access to the Willamette and Columbia rivers, reinforcing Portland’s orientation to its rivers, which continue to serve as a prosperous working harbor while being improved as key habitat areas.

Objective C: Foster an interconnected system of habitat corridors

Habitat areas are sometimes disconnected, and some existing habitat corridors are at risk of losing their continuity.
By 2035, an interconnected system of forest, river and stream habitat corridors are restored and enhanced. They weave nature into the city and serve as a key part of Portland’s urban form and identity.

Direction 5: Enhance Portland’s major centers

Objective A: Continue to support a vibrant Central City

Today, about 34,000 people (6% of city's population living in 23,000 housing units) live in the Central City. The Central City is home to 135,000 jobs—that‘s 34% of all jobs in the City of Portland and 14% of all jobs in the region.
By 2035, the Central City is a vibrant urban hub that supports the commercial and cultural life of the city and region, and that accommodates an increased share of the region’s housing and jobs growth. By 2035, the Central City will have added:

  • 35,000 Housing units (for a total of 59,000 housing units)
  • 74,000 Jobs (for a total of 209,000 jobs)
Objective B: Foster economic growth and civic improvements in Gateway

Today, the Gateway district is zoned for a scale of urban development second only to the Central City, but it is not a major center of jobs or of civic and cultural institutions that serve all of East Portland.

By 2035, Gateway is a thriving urban center that supports the commercial and cultural life of East Portland. It is a major job center and is home to a concentration of civic, cultural and educational institutions.


Technical Action Group Staff

Lead: Bill Cunningham, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability
Mark Raggett, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability
Nicholas Starin, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability
Patrick Sweeney, Portland Bureau of Transportation
Tim Heron, Bureau of Development Services
Ivy Dunlap, Bureau of Environmental Services
Brett Horner, Portland Parks and Recreation

Justin Douglas, Portland Development Commission

Christine Caruso, Bureau of Development Services


Portland Plan Phase II Workshop Handout

Acrobat iconAction Area: Design, Planning and Public Spaces (PDF Document)


Have Your Say

Comments provided here are not considered formal public comment for the purposes of Periodic Review. Periodic Review is a substantial evaluation and revision of a local Comprehensive Plan, the purpose of which is to ensure that a city’s Comprehensive Plan is up-to-date and responsive to local, regional and state conditions and complies with the Statewide Planning Goals. If you would like to submit a formal comment for Periodic Review, please email: portlandplan@ci.portland.or.us or send written testimony to: Bureau of Planning and Sustainability/Portland Plan, 1900 SW 4th Avenue, Portland, OR 97201 and provide your first and last name, address and a contact phone number.


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Posted by: Peggy Moretti - May 19, 2010 03:40 PM

As Executive Director of the Historic Preservation League of Oregon, I whole heartedly support the goals for Design, Planning and Public Spaces overall.  Especially respecting neighborhood character, creating neighborhood business districts,  and creating more functional public spaces with a sense of Place.  I recommend setting a goal of more neighborhood business districts participating in the Main Street program from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  Its got a 30-year record of economic redevelopment coupled with historic preservation - it creates jobs + saves our heritage!
I also find Direction 2, Objective C "Conserve History and Energy" to be very weak.  Preservation and reuse of Portland's historic buildins is an ESSENTIAL component of sustainability!  We cannot BUILD ourselves to sustainability; we must CONSERVE ourselves there. I'd like to see more meat in the plan for this - perhaps a revolving load fund for rehabilitation of historic buildings.
Thank you.

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