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Proposed plaza outside Voodoo Doughnut could be permanent by year’s end

Posted by on March 17th, 2015 at 4:26 pm

ankeny alley rendering
Removable bollards would pedestrianize the road bed on 3rd Avenue outside Voodoo Doughnut.
(Image: Ankeny Alley Association grant application)

One of Portland’s top tourist attractions seems poised to become dramatically less car-oriented by the start of 2016.

An $80,850 grant last month from the Portland Development Commission to the Ankeny Alley Association will provide most of the money required to extend the sidewalk on Southwest 3rd Avenue in front of Voodoo Doughnut in Old Town, creating a plaza in place of an unusually wide traffic lane and substantially narrowing the road bed.

“Either we’ll get it done before summertime 2015 or we’ll postpone it to have the work done end of 2015,” Rob Cross, general manager of Dan and Louis Oyster Bar, said Monday.

PDC project manager Sarah Harpole called Cross’s faster timeline “optimistic.”

“The design is of their creation, I guess it’s fair to say, and it’ll be subject to whatever permits are deemed required by the city,” she said. “In particular I would say the Bureau of Transportation, since it’s their right of way.”

The news comes six months after a much-praised weekend demo project by Better Block PDX created such a plaza and also reduced 3rd Avenue from three travel lanes with auto parking and a loading zone to a single travel lane plus a protected bike lane and wider sidewalks between Northwest Davis and Southwest Ash.

voodoo doughnut
The current design of the potential plaza area.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)
3rd Avenue Better Block PDX
People enjoy a demonstration plaza on 3rd Avenue in October.
(Photo: Greg Raisman)

“The idea of having this closed pedestrian way is something that’s been in a lot of prior master plans focusing on this area,” Harpole said. “The businesses themselves were the ones that brought it to fruition.”

Cross said the local businesses will share the costs of keeping the plaza clean.


It’s not yet clear how much of the space will end up being allocated to clearly public seating and how much will be treated as commercial seating, in design if not by the letter of the law.

“There might be some common seating, but more than likely they’ll just expand plaza seating from the businesses out to those spaces,” Cross predicted.

Here’s an overhead view of the Ankeny Alley Association’s proposal for the space, which clears a pedestrian channel through the current alley as well as moving more seating around the corner onto the widened 3rd Avenue sidewalk.

ankeny alley overhead
The dimensions of the proposed plaza depend on PBOT plans to restripe 3rd Avenue, which aren’t currently clear.
(Image: Ankeny Alley Association grant application)

Another open question: the fate of 3rd Avenue’s travel and parking lanes, including whether travel or parking lanes will be repurposed into bike facilities, wider sidewalks or anything else.

“Many people are hopeful that there will be continued funding or experimentation there, but no formal commitments are in place,” Harpole said.

In an interview Monday, mayoral project manager Chad Stover said Mayor Charlie Hales is “committed to working with the community in this area” to make 3rd Avenue a more pleasant place for both weekend evening and daytime commerce both north and south of Burnside.

“Just me personally, I think that two lanes is probably the right number to go all the way through,” Stover said. “It shouldn’t only be in the name of promoting a nighttime entertainment district, as we want a 24-hour neighborhood.”

Better Block
October’s demo converted one general travel lane on 3rd to a protected bike lane.
(Photo: Greg Raisman)

One development shaking up the politics of Old Town is the semi-retirement of Howard Weiner, owner of the Cal Skate shop and the chair until this spring of the Old Town Community Association. Weiner has been a major advocate for continuing Old Town’s police-supervised street closure on weekend evenings.

“I believe the street closure on the weekends will continue as long as we have the number of folks coming down to party,” Weiner wrote this week. “In the end it is a matter of public safety … I believe the bars have to own this closure and find ways to make the area more appealing.”

Stover, the mayoral staffer, phrased things differently.

“I think there are some larger systemic changes that need to happen,” he said. “I don’t think anybody sees the street closure as a permanent solution to what’s going on in that area.”

Ryan Hashagen, owner of Portland Pedicabs, a member of the Old Town Hospitality Group and a volunteer with Better Block, predicted that more 3rd Avenue changes are on the way.

“We have made great recent progress and are on track for doing another Better Block this summer or spring,” Hashagen said. “Howard will be missed as he retires, but there is too much momentum and potential for success to stop this project and group.”

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20 Comments
  • hat March 17, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    “Just me personally, I think that two lanes is probably the right number to go all the way through,” Stover said.

    I don’t get it. One lane south of Burnside worked fantastic. The only place two lanes could be needed was between Couch and Burnside. Did the mayor’s staff look at the traffic data from Better Block?

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    • paikiala March 18, 2015 at 9:15 am

      North of Burnside the east lane should become a left turn only lane. It has over 200 peak hour left turns – 35% of the entering volume. South of Burnside the peak hour traffic is about 700 cars in the PM or one lane’s worth.
      The city probably has a sketch of a proposed striping plan 😉

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  • 9watts March 17, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    “In particular I would say the Bureau of Transportation, since it’s their right of way.”

    Um, not quite. I think that would be OUR—the public’s—right of way. As far as I know, PBOT doesn’t own the right of way but is charge with taking care of it for us.

    But great news about taking space from the (formerly) almighty car and giving it back to the people.

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    • paikiala March 18, 2015 at 9:20 am

      The original concepts floated relocated the angle parking farther from the theater. This plan appears to change it to parallel parking. That’s a big parking loss. It will be interesting to see if all the adjacent businesses and land owners are aware of the new concept.

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  • Adam H. March 17, 2015 at 8:36 pm

    This is great! I was at the event this past summer and it was a definite improvement for the area! Are they actually expanding the sidewalk surface or just putting the bollards in the street and leaving the road surface?

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  • Steve B March 17, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    Nice to see mention in the application of making one level street surface along the alley and pushing the chairs and tables to the side. That change will be dramatic. Looking forward to it.

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    • paikiala March 18, 2015 at 9:25 am

      The estimate is way off. Just raising the frontage area (not including the alley) is closer to 300k. The restriping is close to $10k. The proposal also appears to require relocation of a fire hydrant, which is not cheap.

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      • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
        Michael Andersen (News Editor) March 18, 2015 at 5:00 pm

        I believe there’s a separate grant involved here that would address drainage in the alley. Also, it’s not clear to me that the road bed is actually going to be raised by this plan, or whether that part might be done in a later phase. Anyway, yes, $80,000 doesn’t seem like anywhere close to enough for a full-scale upgrade.

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    • wsbob March 18, 2015 at 9:46 am

      “…pushing the chairs and tables to the side. …” Steve B

      Locating the chairs and tables to the sides of the street, up against the buildings, allowing pedestrian, and bike travel down the center of the street, definitely makes a lot of sense. This is the way configuration of the street should have been laid out when the street was first closed to use with motor vehicles.

      paikiala may be correct about the estimate. Moving utilities isn’t cheap, which I’m more or less guessing is that why often times new bike infrastructure installed, isn’t near as functional as it needs to be.

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  • kittens March 17, 2015 at 10:15 pm

    I’m not sure how much purpose-built and designed the space should be. I think part or the charm of the area and indeed Voodoo, to tourists is the feeling of being a part of something slightly edgy and urban. Not that it is, but still, they get off on that aspect.

    That said, they do need more ped/bike infrastructure there. Its the execution I am a little worried about… lest it become like the new Saturday Market area… too designed/stale.

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  • Peter W March 17, 2015 at 11:43 pm

    One thing I love about Melbourne, Australia is the pedestrian-only or pedestrian-mostly laneways. Glad to see Portland is getting closer to that, little bit by little bit.

    http://www.thatsmelbourne.com.au/Placestogo/LanewaysandArcades/Pages/LanewaysandArcades.aspx

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  • Rick March 18, 2015 at 7:00 am

    Not all of 3rd Ave needs a redesign. UGM on the corner of NW 3rd and Burnside needs parking space. SW 3rd and Burnside has a dangerous crosswalk.

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    • Ryan Guy Hashagen March 18, 2015 at 4:22 pm

      All of the proposed plans have included a load zone for Union Gospel Mission, based on feedback from UGM. Crosswalk improvements are continuing to be part of the conversation. Please feel free to join us at the 3rd Ave Stakeholder Group, we would welcome you & UGM at the table!

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  • Eric in Seattle March 18, 2015 at 9:29 am

    “I don’t think anybody sees the street closure as a permanent solution to what’s going on in that area.”
    I don’t think anyone is proposing to close the street. This proposal is just to reallocate the use of the street

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    • Chris Anderson March 18, 2015 at 11:04 am

      I think he’s talking about weekend street closures during nightclub hours, which has been an ongoing safety hassle thing in that neighborhood for a while.

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  • oliver March 18, 2015 at 10:18 am

    I love it, but still believe that the missing piece of the puzzle is abolition of the OLCC rule that says you have to rope off an area in order to serve alcohol to customers seated therein.

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    • Steve B March 18, 2015 at 1:25 pm

      Are they still doing this? I was there this weekend and didn’t notice ropes.

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  • rick March 18, 2015 at 8:36 pm

    Why doesn’t PBOT charge businesses to pay for this change?

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
      Michael Andersen (News Editor) March 18, 2015 at 9:22 pm

      One of the concepts in circulation is for businesses or landowners in this area to agree to form a local improvement district that would add some sort of extra assessment to property tax bills. This money could then go toward things like making this project look super sexy.

      Harpole told me that scenario is more on the five-year plan than the one-year plan.

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