Downtown businesses push for carfree SW Ankeny street

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:

“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.

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