Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Downtown businesses push for carfree SW Ankeny street

Posted by on March 24th, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Portland Car Free Days (Day 2)

Business owners want this to be the norm on SW Ankeny Street, shown here during an event in 2006.
(Photo © J. Maus)

The Willamette Week is reporting that business owners on the block of SW Ankeny between SW 2nd and 3rd Streets in downtown Portland would like to see the street completely closed to cars. In a follow-up blog post to a story they published in their paper yesterday, Willamette Week reporter James Pitkin shared that the idea spurred a local architect to approach City Council with his own proposal on how to make carfree SW Ankeny a reality.

According to the Willamette Week, bar owner Dustin Knox and nightclub owner John Papaioannou (Berbati’s Pan) would both like to see the street made more accessible to people for strolling and relaxing without the presence of cars:

Portland Car Free Days (Day 2)

“Dustin and I are on the same page,” Papaioannou says. “We could create a lot of traffic.”

But first, Papaioannou says, they need the city to get out of their way.

The narrow block lined with brick (and also home to the venerable bar Valentine’s) offers more Old Town charm than most stretches of the city center. Knox and Papaioannou want the option of setting up tables to serve their respective specialties—crêpes and gyros.

But the sidewalks are too narrow.

So long as the city continues allowing auto traffic, the car-free promenade Knox and Papaioannou picture is just a dream.

“We have been fighting to close this alley for 20 years,” Papaioannou says. “Why won’t the city do it?””

Yellow line shows proposed carfree section.

Momentum for a carfree SW Ankeny is long overdue and hopefully this story will gain the attention of City Hall. Local architect Dennis Harper already wrote Mayor Adams and Bureau of Planning and Sustainability Director Susan Anderson an email saying, “this area of Old Town has long been on my list of districts that cry out for pedestrian improvements.”

As I pointed out in an editorial last fall that shared a very similar sentiment, for all its rhetoric about livability and support for carfree spaces, the City of Portland has yet to close even one downtown street to motor vehicle access.

If there was ever a place to do it, this stretch of SW Ankeny (which you might recall, hosted the 2006 Portland Carfree Days event) would be perfect.

We’ve asked Mayor Adams’ Transportation Policy Director Director Ciarlo what she thinks and we’ll update you when he hear back.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you.

  • Paul Cone March 24, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    I think this is right where the infamous BTA Poster “Room to Breathe” was shot, wasn’t it?

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • DT March 24, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    The portion of Ankeny involved is between 2nd and 3rd Ave, not 3rd and 4th like you say in your article. 🙂

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • todd March 24, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    i never go to nightclubs, but i almost want to go just to say I CAME BECAUSE YOU ROCK!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • BicycleDave March 24, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Duh. I don’t even choose to ride my bike on this alley when I visit Voodoo Doughnuts. Why does it need to be open to autos?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Bob R. March 24, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    Could this be a candidate for the “festival street” treatment, similar to NW Davis between 3rd and 4th?

    (A “festival street” is one where the entire street is raised and seamless with the sidewalks and has other paving treatments to make it stand out as “special” and low-speed.)

    That way, if it’s necessary to have vehicle access (for police, deliveries, etc.) during normal business hours, it’s possible, but when you want to close the street off for events in the evenings and on weekends, it’s a pleasant location and there are no curbs to trip over, plenty of space to position tables, etc.

    Another precedent in the city is SW Main st. between Broadway and Park, which can be closed with gates for events which occur at the Schnitzer / Performing Arts center.

    So clearly the city has design elements available, the question is simply a matter of whether, when, and how much $$$.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Allan March 24, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    “the City of Portland has yet to close even one downtown street to motor vehicle access.”

    I would point to NW Kearney a “vacated street” in the Pearl.

    Also I would call this “closed to motor vehicles”

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Lance P March 24, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    I could only hope.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Oliver March 24, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    “they need the city to get out of their way”

    What, are they going to close that street themselves? Put in their own bollards?

    I agree, shut it down. Just please spare us the tea party jargon.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • mh March 24, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    It’s not an alley, it’s a street. No garages on it, as there are on most alleys, so no need for cars at all. If the business owners want it closed to motor vehicles, what is keeping the city from just doing it (or at least starting whatever process they feel is just and allows lots of public hearings and comments)? Two good sized concrete bollards at each end and everyone who has offered an opinion so far is happy.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • 007 March 25, 2011 at 7:10 pm

      The lemmings in charge are probably afraid. You know, give them an inch….today, Ankenny, tomorrow the world.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • BURR March 24, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    IIRC that block of Ankeny was the site of the third annual Portland Car Free Day in 2005. There should be some pics in your photo archive, Jonathan.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Aaron March 24, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    I’m fine with this section of Ankeny being shut down, but if the local bars are going to profit from it, make them pay for the costs to do so.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • BURR March 24, 2011 at 4:43 pm

      what costs would those be?

      I’ll bet they can probably afford a few traffic cones.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • wsbob March 24, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    I’ve traveled this street many times on foot. During those times…late evenings…daytime…weekends, cars traveling on the street was never much of a problem. Because the street is so narrow, cars tend either to avoid the street entirely, or go relatively slow over its short length.

    Excluding cars from the street would probably be a big bonus for businesses that would like to have sidewalk tables. It’s kind of nice though, to have the street mostly free for walking. In the immediate area, there’s already a lot of beer garden sidewalk seating. Eliminating parking on the street would help a lot.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Sean G March 24, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    I would think the pro-business side of this story would appeal to those upset with the negligible public expense involved. I’ve walked down this street many times and always wondered why it was open to cars (other than parking). Deliveries go through, but I imagine the businesses asking for the closure have considered that aspect. This is a generally walkable area of town, especially with the MAX lines and waterfront so convenient.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • jim March 25, 2011 at 12:03 am

    it wouldnt be much of a lose as a street, it might help portllands tourism industry to have a festive type of street. perhaps open it to deliveries in the wee hrs of the morning only?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Alex March 25, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    This would be great. Cars almost never use the street and it would be a great event space. It could also be used as an extension of Saturday Market festivities.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • adamdoug2011 March 28, 2011 at 8:07 am

    I remember doing all sorts of chalking with Carl L on saturday night trying to direct people to the carfree ankeny space – after chalking for 30 minutes, we were a little dismayed to see the city paid power washer guy erase all of our work. oh well 😉

    Recommended Thumb up 0