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A sneak peek at the New Seasons Market coming to North Williams Avenue

Posted by on August 6th, 2013 at 1:15 pm

New Seasons on Williams sneak peek-5

First time the bike racks have
been open for use.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

New Seasons Market hosted an open house this morning for the media and community members to get a sneak peek into their new store on North Williams Avenue. I wouldn’t usually devote my morning to the opening of a new grocery store, but given the location of this store and its potential to impact the streets around it — from both a public space and traffic operation perspective — I figured it was worth getting an insider look. (Disclaimer: New Seasons is a BikePortland advertiser.)

What I found was a very pleasant surprise: New Seasons staff and management has made public space, community access, and bicycling convenience a top priority in the layout/design and retail offerings of their new store.

Set to open August 28th, the new store is located in the northern half of the lot bound by Fremont, Vancouver and Williams. It’s smack dab in the middle of one of the busiest bicycle corridors in the city and the evening rush hour on N Cook (to the south) and Williams is widely known as a chaotic headache for both drivers and riders. And the traffic demands will only intensify in the coming months as there are many new commercial and residential buildings popping up all over the place (including on the south end of the lot shared by New Seasons).

Unfortunately, construction of the Williams Avenue Traffic Operations and Safety project — which will bring new traffic signals and a completely new layout of Williams Ave — won’t begin until summer of 2014 (a full two years after a citizen committee approved the final design).

We’ll share more about the traffic and access issues once the store opens. For now, let’s focus on the store itself, which I toured today with Assistant Store Manager Jen Soltero.

New Seasons on Williams sneak peek-1

Community room in the store’s northeast corner.
(The rear entry door is on the left.)

The biggest thing I took away from today’s tour was how the new store will (hopefully) “activate” the streetscape. On the Williams side of the store, near the 30 bike racks on the northeast corner, is a heated (via overhead gas lamps), covered seating area. A marble, outdoor chess table is also on the way. In addition, New Seasons’ Operations Manager Elizabeth Nardi shared with me that they will place tables, chairs and even a few rocking chairs, on the Fremont (north side) sidewalk.

And something I didn’t realize before this morning was that there will be a store entrance on Fremont near the corner at Williams. My hunch is that this smaller “rear” entrance will become the preferred entry for bike riding customers. If you’re heading north on Williams, Instead of making the difficult merge to access the main driveway in the middle of the lot (or heaving your bike up and over the curb once the bike path is placed on the left side), I’d recommend continuing to Fremont, then using the crosswalk and curb ramp to access the sidewalk near the rear entrance. If headed to the store from Vancouver (or Fremont for that matter), I’d also recommend using the sidewalk. This means you’ll never have to interact with what will surely be a crowded and hectic parking lot at the front entrance.

Just inside the rear entrance will be a set of lockers specifically for biking customers. This is an idea I’ve worked on with New Seasons with the aim of making shopping easier for folks that have a bunch of gear (panniers, rain coats, and so on) they don’t want to leave on their bikes. The new lockers haven’t arrived yet, but Nardi tells me there will be 10 spots to start with. They’ll be 30-inches tall (high enough to hang a coat), 12-inches wide, 18-inches deep, and will have a lock that can be reset after each use.

The east side of the store also has something new for New Seasons: A “community room” complete with a fireplace (!) and a roll-down wall for privacy. This room came in response to neighbors who wanted a place to hold meetings and other gatherings. It will be available at no charge and by reservation. Another community request resulted in a lot of windows facing the street, which means the store will be open and exposed to the hustle-and-bustle of the neighborhood.

New Seasons on Williams sneak peek-3

Cool drinking fountain
and bottle filler.

Assistant Manager Jen Soltero also said they purposely laid out the east side of the store for quick access by customers that just want to grab a few things and go (behavior, Soltero said, that lines up with their typical biking customer). There are express registers and grab-and-go foods on the east side and there’s a register near the rear entrance.

New Seasons on Williams sneak peek-2

Another shot of the community room
and dining area in the well-lit northeast corner
of the store.

As Soltero gave us the tour, she mentioned how New Seasons’ offerings are specifically tailored to customers who bike. The bulk foods section is popular with bike riders, she pointed out, because they can get smaller amounts of things like dog food. There’s even New Seasons’ first-ever grab-and-go meats section, which Soltero said is perfect for customers to “just throw some ground beef into their bike bag” (she was speaking to the group, not just me, when she said that). The beer and wine offerings are also tailored to biking and walking customers. “We’re trying to phase out 12-packs,” Soltero told our group, “and use more cans so that they’re easier to pack and lighter to throw into a bike bag or walk home with.”

Another cool touch is the automated, oversized water bottle filling machine. This nifty feature of the store’s drinking fountain automatically fills up tall bottles, which makes filling bike bottles and those popular re-usable bottles much easier (and it also keeps a running tally of how many bottles it has filled).

New Seasons has also considered how freight access will impact traffic around their store. They’re trying to “slot” all their deliveries, meaning vendors with big trucks will have a scheduled delivery time. This, Nardi pointed out, will prevent several large trucks from idling and clogging up the streets at the same time. They’re also starting deliveries very early in the morning (5:00 am) to avoid the morning rush hour on Vancouver. (Note: Large delivery truck access will be on the Vancouver (west) side of the lot.) “In general, we try to consolidate our deliveries to have fewer large trucks,” said Nardi.

New Seasons on Williams sneak peek-4

This raised feature in the parking
lot will help calm traffic.

As I left the store this morning, I noticed a nice design touch in the auto parking lot. There’s a large and paved hump at the entry to the parking stalls. This is something commonly used to calm neighborhood traffic in the Netherlands and I think it will help make the parking lot a bit more sane.

Overall, I came away impressed with how much thought and follow-through New Seasons demonstrated in terms of making their store accessible to bicycling and to the community in general.

As for the traffic operations issues, there will be tricky transition period until the new, left-side bike path is constructed next summer. I recommended to New Seasons that they consider proactive solutions to encourage good road user behaviors (like sandwich board messages along Williams for instance). Another issue will be creating an easier transition from the bike path to the bike racks. New Seasons staff is interested in creating ramps from the street up onto the sidewalk and hopefully PBOT will be too.

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

  • brland August 6, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Can you explain why moving bike lanes to left side of Williams helps? Wouldn’t it be better if cars didn’t have to cross the bike lane to enter/exit New Seasons parking lot?

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    • Stevie August 6, 2013 at 2:52 pm

      I believe the main reason that the bike lane is being shifted to the left side of the street is to eliminate bike/bus conflict along the Williams corridor. As far as access to New Seasons goes, bikers will no longer have to cross any lanes of traffic on Williams once the project is complete (currently they must cross two lanes). Also, the dedicated space for bikes along Williams will be much wider.

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  • Nate Young August 6, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    I’ve often wished the NS in Arbor Lodge had bike parking on the south side and made that doorway usable. Similar to the ‘quick in and out’ access they designed for here, that would make a much more pleasant entry without dealing with the craziness that is the parking lot (and the often woefully lacking bike parking by the entrance.)
    Overall, sounds like a well-thought out spot. Kudos!

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  • Dwainedibbly August 6, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    I hope City Target is paying attention!

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  • Todd Hudson August 6, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Still no WinCo in North Portland.

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    • 9watts August 6, 2013 at 1:46 pm

      maybe that is because they are based in Boise?

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      • Todd Hudson August 6, 2013 at 1:57 pm

        There’s one within biking distance of me! Also, their food is affordable for working families…

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  • Babygorilla August 6, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    I hope City Target is paying attention!
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    City Target was a remodel of a existing building space in a dense downtown block. Like every other large standalone retailer downtown, it does not have its own private vehicle parking and is constrained by its existing footprint on a city block surrounded by public sidewalks. Its actually a remarkable piece of urban revitalization and reuse.

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    • Dwainedibbly August 6, 2013 at 1:55 pm

      I realize that but they could have done better. I do like the store and am glad that Target is there but I figured I would bust their chops one last time.

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  • 9watts August 6, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    Is there a spec’d distance between a staple rack and the nearest wall? The racks in the photo above look unusually close to the store wall/windows. The way I lock my front wheel and downtube to the rack wouldn’t seem to work with the racks that close. Not a big deal; just a question.

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    • Robin August 6, 2013 at 2:05 pm

      City of Portland Development Code, Chapter 33.266, Figure 266-11 notes some bicycle parking layouts. See page 29 here:


      I would think that this type of project would be required to be in compliance with this, but I didn’t check the measurements.

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      • 9watts August 6, 2013 at 2:15 pm

        Excellent. thanks for the link.
        p. 29 indicates 30″ which doesn’t look like what we have in the photo above.

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    • Todd Hudson August 6, 2013 at 2:06 pm

      That’s a legitimate concern.

      I frequently ride a cargo bike. When locking to a rack, I like to at least be able to fasten my seattube to the staple. Otherwise, it can fall down (because it’s so long).

      Constantly having to use staples that are way to close to the building is quite common and very annoying.

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  • Chris I August 6, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    No 12-packs? My Big Dummy never seems to have a problem with them…

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  • Anne Hawley August 6, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    The attention to multiple approaches from several directions is laudable, as is their scheduling of large truck deliveries. Both of these are areas that the Whole Foods (Wild Oats/Nature’s) on 15th & Fremont never got quite right.

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  • Zaphod August 6, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    I’m excited to deliver our coffee there and shop en route to/from work. An awesome addition.

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  • bikecommuter August 6, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    I am so excited to have a New Season in the neighborhood!!!! I love the fact that this New Seasons is going to have a community center and plenty of bike parking. New Seasons is a great asset to our community.

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  • Spiffy August 6, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    now Fred Meyer needs to open a location near there with all the same stuff but at cheaper prices…

    love that I don’t have to pay the high cost of New Seasons and can just go to the Freddie’s on 39th/Hawthorne 3 blocks away…

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    • Reza August 6, 2013 at 8:26 pm

      Talk about the “free” market failing. Places like Fremont/Williams and South Waterfront/South Portland beg for any grocery store at all while Hawthorne and Hollywood get oversaturated. And there are plenty of other food deserts further out that haven’t been addressed.

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      • Lisa August 8, 2013 at 7:09 am

        Fremont/Williams is not a food desert by any means. There’s just not a grocery store at that corner. But there are many quite nearby.

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    • ShareTheRoad August 7, 2013 at 12:01 am

      I’ll pay a little extra for great service and well paid employees.

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  • Mike August 6, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    I’m confused here Jonathan” I’d recommend continuing to Fremont, then using the crosswalk and curb ramp to access the sidewalk near the rear entrance”. Why not encourage readers to act like the vehicle they are? When bicyclists use sidewalks and crosswalks typically accident rates in those areas increase because other road users cannot predict erratic behavior. Just use the lanes we have, either a bike lane or take a regular lane, signal your intentions, stop at lights/signs and ride. This back and forth this is just dangerous and encourages bicyclists to look like nitwits rather than competent, reasonable and equal road users

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 7, 2013 at 8:59 am

      Mike wrote:

      I’m confused here Jonathan… Why not encourage readers to act like the vehicle they are? When bicyclists use sidewalks and crosswalks typically accident rates in those areas increase because other road users cannot predict erratic behavior.

      Because bicycles are not cars and there’s absolutely nothing inherently unsafe about making maximum use of crosswalks and sidewalks when they are available — especially when the bikeways offered on the actual street are not as good as they should be. I said nothing about “erratic behavior” so I’m not sure why you jumped to that conclusion.


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  • AndyC of Linnton August 6, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    What I’m wondering is will there be a beer trike/rickshaw/cargo bike that takes you to Emanuel Hospital when you get creamed by a Subaru? Keepin’ it local, y’know.

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  • Matt August 6, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    New Seasons seems committed to not having loading docks. You can “consolidate deliveries” all you want. It still creates traffic (bike, pedestrian, auto) hazards. I’ve emailed Ms. Nardi multiple times re: the Hawthorne store. Consolidation doesn’t work there. Vendors routinely park illegally and create hazards. New Seasons can only do so much and PPB couldn’t care less. Is there any reason to believe this store will be different? The answer is to have loading docks so trucks can get off the road. It’s not rocket science.

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  • vanessa August 6, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    yeah, when I saw all those racks my first thought was why so close to the bldg. and why not at a diagonal?

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  • Doug Klotz August 7, 2013 at 6:54 am

    The Williams store has a loading dock, I believe, on the south side, west end, accessed from the “private street” on the south end of the parking lot.

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  • Nathan Alan August 7, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    I disagree. It is unsafe because bicycles are behaving neither as motor vehicle nor pedestrian when transitioning from road/sidewalk, actions are largely unpredictable; drivers get confused, then angry. If cyclists want to be treated as equals on the roads we have to use them as a motor vehicle would, this means no sidewalks.

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  • CaptainKarma August 7, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    One step above Whole Foods, which is not saying much. I always feel robbed coming out of those places. I’m beginning to understand on a gut level (haha) the gentrification backlash along this corridor. Still, it’s a free country, eh…?

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    • kittens August 7, 2013 at 4:40 pm

      Robbed because you are helping to support good local jobs and supply-chain and an attractive store? OK. I guess you can always go to Plaid Pantry if you hate these things.

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      • Lisa August 8, 2013 at 7:13 am

        They aren’t union jobs, they don’t actually pay *that* much, and the families that are still holding tight against gentrification can’t afford to shop there.

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  • Lisa August 8, 2013 at 7:16 am

    On no. Only 3 weeks til the permanent and massive traffic clusterf*@&. I’ll predict it now: a bunch of people are going to get hurt over there.

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    • maxadders August 8, 2013 at 3:30 pm

      Yep. I’ve already shifted away from using it regularly due to, surprisingly, poor manners exhibited by fellow cyclists (for the most part, drivers act just fine). But as I’ve said before, shifting lanes will introduce so much more conflict. Nobody wanted this change. I don’t even think anything substantive came from the accusations of racism brought by the black community– not that it wasn’t already too late to stop the sky-high property values and continued deportation of working families in favor of lifestyle fluff.

      RIP N. Williams Bikeway, 200? – 2013

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