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City of Portland poised to make carfree Ankeny Street a reality

Posted by on May 26th, 2011 at 9:34 am

Portland Car Free Days (Day 2)

One block of SW Ankeny will be carfree
for four months starting in June.
(Photo © J. Maus)

The Oregonian reported yesterday that the Portland Bureau of Transportation has worked with business owners to negotiate a permit that will make SW Ankeny Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues carfree from June 21st to October 21st.

This block of SW Ankeny was the site of Portland Carfree Days back in 2006. Back in October, we flagged it as a perfect place to try a carfree street. Then, a few months ago, the Willamette Week reported on business owners on the street who also supported the concept. With full backing from new PBOT Director Tom Miller, The Oregonian reported yesterday that PBOT has granted a four-month permit to make it a reality:

“… spokesman Dan Anderson confirmed that the city created a permit to shut down the alley to car traffic from June 21 to October 31. Businesses on the alley will pay the city approximately $5,000 over that period in recompense to the city for lost revenue on six metered parking spaces…

The idea, which has been batted around for years, is to shut down the stretch of Ankeny between Second and Third avenues to car traffic, allowing restaurants to serve food and drinks to customers at tables flowing out into the road. Sort of like a Portland version of New York’s Little Italy.”

According to The Oregonian, seven businesses in the immediate area are on board and will share $5,000 cost. The paper also reports that, along with Miller, Mayor Sam Adams was “instrumental” in helping the businesses negotiate the permit.

“When business owners came to the city asking for a car-free SW Ankeny, we listened.”
— Dan Anderson, PBOT

PBOT spokesman Dan Anderson told us this morning via email that, “When business owners came to the city asking for a car-free SW Ankeny, we listened.”

Anderson says this will be a “trial street closure” and that the permit must still be passed by City Council before it’s 100% official (the odds are extremely good it will pass). The issue will be taken up at the June 15th Council meeting.

This is great news, and it could spur momentum for more carfree streets downtown. The Oregonian reports that the owner of Bailey’s Taproom, which is a few blocks west on Ankeny now wants something similar near his business,

“…Bailey’s Taproom, a craft beer bar at Southwest Broadway and Ankeny Street, has asked the city to look into shutting down the stretch of Ankeny near them (from Broadway to Northwest Eighth Avenue).”

If there’s one thing this story makes perfectly clear, it’s that when businesses talk, the City of Portland listens. Let’s hope they ask for this type of stuff more often.

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 — Jonathan

  • Lance P May 26, 2011 at 9:39 am


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  • Harrison May 26, 2011 at 9:44 am

    I know where I will be having lunch this summer!

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  • carye b May 26, 2011 at 10:16 am

    so excited.. this will be great for voodoo, dan & louis oyster bar, valentines, Ted’s, Shanghai tunnels.. it will be like Little Paris!

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  • sharon May 26, 2011 at 10:17 am

    I’m surprised biz owners have to pay for lost parking revenue.

    Do biz owners have to pay for lost parking revenue when a set of bike racks replaces a parking place? They’ shouldn’t have to, methinks..

    Glad the Ankeny businesses are sharing the burden, but the city should just eat that cost.

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    • Will May 26, 2011 at 12:53 pm

      I understand you’re looking out of the owners, but the $5K split will be made up for 10-fold. They’ll make a killing this summer. Great idea businesses! And well done city of Portland, my favorite summer time corner (sitting outside at either the Shanghai and Berbatis) just get even better!

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  • SilkySlim May 26, 2011 at 10:25 am

    “Sort of like a Portland version of New York’s Little Italy”.

    How about Portland’s version of regular Italy!!!

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  • Chris I May 26, 2011 at 10:27 am

    There should be a trade-off between lost parking revenue and street maintenance. One would think that the city will be saving maintenance on this stretch of road. Not sure how much that is worth…

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  • dsaxena May 26, 2011 at 10:43 am

    This is probably one of the most exciting pieces of news I’ve read in a while. I spent much of this year in Europe and one the things I think we’re missing here to make a real street culture is cafes and restaurants that spill out into the street. I’d wonder if there are other little stretches like this that can be closed…

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  • Ryan Good May 26, 2011 at 10:44 am

    SWEET!!!! That’s about three blocks from my office so I guess I’ll be spending lots of time there this summer. My prediction: it will be a stunning success and by July businesses all over town will be begging the city for permits to follow suit!

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  • Alex May 26, 2011 at 10:48 am

    With its narrow street and sidewalks this is a perfect street to go car-free, though I can’t imagine it will be much benefit to through-traffic by bike, since it connects two one-way streets going in opposite directions. Already one of the most intimate blocks downtown, it will become even more so. I would have put Ankeny north of Broadway on the same list of quiet streets in the heart of downtown, so it’s interesting to hear that a business owner there has the same idea.

    Hopefully they put a physical barrier on 2nd to prevent people from accidentally turning down it, it gets a lot of traffic on weekend nights in the summer. From the perspective of a driver, if you’re looking for parking for some of the popular bars down there Ankeny is the last place to turn around from 2nd to 3rd without having to cross Burnside twice (through 2 traffic lights), so it will be interesting to see how traffic and parking changes.

    It’s a little low-rent for the city to be charging for the lost meter revenue, but on the flip side the fact that the businesses are willing to pay to be on a car-free street counters arguments that the city favors bikes over cars, or that businesses need cars to be able to stop right in front of them.

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    • A.K. May 26, 2011 at 11:03 am

      I think putting a Jersey barrier at either end of the street would help prevent people from accidentally driving down it.

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  • fletch May 26, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Oh great! Maybe they could put in some more food carts, they are very classy. I hope its bike free and if it isn’t they should charge for bike parking.

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    • Jack May 26, 2011 at 11:34 am

      Did you even read the article? The city is not losing money and the businesses are in favor of all of this…which means they intend to make money.

      And I don’t know if you’ve noticed but food carts are definitely ‘the rage’ lately. Perhaps your idea of classy is not shared by the majority.

      Also, you should charge for bike parking on some property you own, and let me know how that goes. Meanwhile let other property owners decide what to do with their property.

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  • AJL May 26, 2011 at 11:14 am

    This is exactly what needs to be done to the mess of a street at Pike Place Market in Seattle. SDOT – shut down that street to traffic all summer! It’s a mess. But SDOT doesn’t have the guts.

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    • Allison May 26, 2011 at 11:31 am

      It seems to me at random times they do shut it down. Maybe that’s just with the remodeling of the market right now…

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  • Dave May 26, 2011 at 11:16 am

    Now we just need to convince the businesses that depend heavily on freight that getting more cars off the roads will help them out.

    This is brilliant, and I imagine these restaurants and bars are going to do great business because the space in front of their businesses is going to be so nice to hang out in. I’m sure they will also draw business from other parts of town, because people will be interested to check it out for themselves, and will like it once they see it.

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  • Josh Berezin May 26, 2011 at 11:20 am

    You definitely got it right in your tweet, Jonathan: Businesses talk, City listens.

    For me, it drives home how important business outreach is when there’s a new project proposed that improves conditions for people walking and biking. We need businesses that are along those routes not only to sign off on the project, but to be active advocates from very early in the process.

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  • David May 26, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Lost parking revenue??? What lost parking revenue??? If people can’t park on this street they will find someplace else to park (and pay).

    Nobody is gonna turn around and go home because they couldn’t park there.

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  • daisy May 26, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Really good business move on the City’s part.

    There is quite a financial ripple to this project.
    The businesses that serve alcohol will need to submit permit addendums for the extra seating.
    The increased alcohol sales will raise their liquour liablitiy rates.
    Increased alocohol and food sales = more state taxes.
    Increased staff for the extra tables.
    Increased securtiy staff to monitor the extra outside tables.
    More bar/restaurant consumables being purchased.
    Increased foot traffic for the surrounding businesses.
    Less BS from the people just down there looking for trouble using that block as a cruising turn around.

    All of these pluses put dollars into the state and local economy.

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  • was carless May 26, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    Dang, there goes my argument that the city won’t consider closing streets down to cars. I’m so sad. 🙁

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  • Steve B May 26, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Yes!! I definitely think Ankeny north of Broadway is also a good location for going carfree this summer. I don’t hang out downtown much, but if streets are going carfree I’m going to make it a point to spend more time there this Summer.

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  • dwainedibbly May 26, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    OK, so the businesses will pay the fee to make up for “lost” parking revenue. I dislike this because it implies an “automobiles first” mentality. “If we’re going to take away parking, somebody must pay.” In light of the problems that we’re running into near the Lloyd and on N Williams due to parking removal, this part of the Ankeny deal just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

    The City should just eat the parking revenue loss (if it even exists) and enjoy the increase in tax revenue from increased business, jobs, etc, as well as the reduced street maintenance. Call it the price of the experiment.

    (I can’t believe I just made a pro-business post, but there it is.)

    And if it isn’t clear, I think that (aside from this one flaw) this is a great first step. Somebody at PBOT should be commended for taking a chance.

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  • dmc May 26, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    great news!

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  • Ted Buehler May 26, 2011 at 5:32 pm


    I wonder if the $5000 in parking revenue is the total take, or the total take minus the cost to administer the ticket-spitters and other administrative costs?

    Ted Buehler

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  • Brian May 26, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    Great news! Now let’s bring the car-free luuuuuurve to SE Ankeny too. A diverter at SE 12th to prevent all that ridiculous commuter car through-traffic, stat!

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  • K May 26, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    I was involved with the Carfree Day group that got together to close this street for one day to car traffic a few years’ back.

    Seeing how positively the businesses responded was wonderful! I remember in particular, Shanghai Tunnels were practically falling over themselves to put out tables and chairs in the alleyway to accommodate extra seating, which was promptly snapped up by eager patrons.

    And as somebody who highly enjoys the superb live music at the ethereal Valentine’s bar tucked away on the street, it will be great to hopefully see some outdoor seating materialize outside there too, when the street becomes carfree 🙂

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  • Doug Klotz May 26, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    Interesting that the city calls Ankeny Street an “alley” as a way to say it’s not a real street, and perhaps appease drivers (you’re not losing a “street”, just an “alley”). In Europe, since we’re talking about it, “street” includes wide rights of way, narrow rights of way, rights of way where no cars can go, and ROWs so narrow you can barely walk down them. Only in the US do we think any ROW that you can’t drive on is not a “street”.

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  • Paul Tay May 27, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    Damn. You guys keep upping the ante for the rest of us to keep up.

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  • Todd Boulanger May 27, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    Sweet2. I would now be more likely to frequent the businesses there and spend my cash. T

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  • Michael M. May 28, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    This sounds like a wholesale monetization of what was once public space. A car-free Ankeny for the public would be great, but is that what this is? If businesses are forking over $5,000 for the lost parking revenue, are the tables and chairs going to be open to the public, or only to paying customers?

    This move comes in the context of a big uptick in the number of citations and warnings under Portland’s Sidewalk Management Ordinance along SW Ankeny between 1st & 3rd. Is this development going to lead to that trend escalating? The preliminary data from Oregon’s most recent homeless count shows that homelessness has increased 29% statewide. Are we really planning on ratcheting up the criminalization of homelessness and poverty just as our economic policies are forcing record numbers from their homes?

    All this sounds really disturbing.

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    • daisy May 30, 2011 at 9:10 am

      The OLCC will require the businesses that have sidewalk table permits to monitor the approved # of tables. There will also be physical barriers separating the permitted spaces as per the OLCC. It will be up to the individual business whether the non paying customers may use their tables or chairs.

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    • are May 30, 2011 at 5:16 pm

      thank you, michael, i was hoping someone would articulate this

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