The City of Portland has decided to work with neighborhood groups and a coalition of city agencies to close NE Alberta Street to car traffic for the monthly Last Thursday event.
The agreement was made at a meeting in City Hall last night that was attended by a myriad of stakeholder groups including, the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, Art on Alberta, TriMet, the Police Bureau, local neighborhood and business associations and others.
The meeting was meant as a debriefing session to discuss last week’s event that was an experiment to see how the event functioned with a “soft closure”. The soft closure was not an official street closure, but cars were encouraged by volunteers to take other routes and people were allowed to walk freely in the middle of the street.
“I’m glad the city is realizing that it’s the best thing for the event and for everyone’s safety to close the street to car traffic.”
The result was essentially a carfree street and there were no serious incidents or problems.
Shoshanah Oppenheim works on transportation issues for Commissioner Sam Adams. She says last night’s meeting was “productive” and the result of the meeting was that,
“we’ve decided to develop a stronger partnership between the City and the neighborhood to strengthen what’s good about the event and move them towards a street closure permit.”
In advance of the upcoming street closure, Oppenheim added that the partnership will work on addressing the remaining concerns held by neighbors. These concerns include a need for more trash cans and restroom facilities, and people driving to the event and parking on neighborhood streets.
That “street closure permit” (which is the official way of saying Alberta will be completely carfree) will be filed by Magnus Johannesson, the neighborhood activist and business owner who has forced the carfree issue on the City since his brazen move to close the street to cars back in July.
Speaking after the meeting, Johannesson told me he’s, “very, very excited that the city has taken this matter seriously.” He added that he is glad the the city is, “realizing that it’s the best thing for the event and for everyone’s safety to close the street to car traffic.”
Johannesson says even though last week’s even was successful, there were still several issues with the few cars that were driving down the street.
“A few cars called 911 because they felt trapped by pedestrians and they couldn’t get off the street and a few folks tried to drive across Alberta and there were some close calls.”
But those incidents, Johannesson says, “will be a non-issue when we close the street down properly.”
To help keep the event thriving, Johannesson has established a new non-profit called Last Thursday on Alberta (famous former resident Dingo the Clown is the first official Board Member). The group is working with the city to find grant money and is currently seeking donations to pay for the street closure and various logisitical requirements (like insurance, trash cans, etc…).
The first meeting of the non-profit will be Tuesday, August 12th at 6:30 at Zaytoons (2236 NE Alberta). Johannesson says he wants Last Thursday on Alberta — both the non-profit and the event — to be very inclusive and that everyone is encouraged to get involved.
Both Johannesson and Oppenheim said they have strategies in place to try and attract more members of the immediate neighborhood to the event.