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This weekend, ‘Popcorn plazas’ will add tiny parks to the street outside Clinton Street Theater

Posted by on June 11th, 2014 at 2:38 pm

Parking Day-16

Better Block PDX’s temporary plaza on Stark Street last fall.
(Photo J.Maus/BikePortland)

What’s all that empty pavement doing outside one of the coolest intersections in Portland?

A group of locals are celebrating the summer by trying something new for two days at 26th and Clinton.

Better Block PDX, the team of volunteers who created a beautiful PARK(ing) Day lounge on Southwest Stark Street last fall have again lined up business support and gotten city permission to turn underused street space into a public plaza outside the Clinton Street Theater all day Saturday and Sunday, June 14-15.

Here’s what the temporary plazas will look like:

Overhead view of the plazas appearing temporarily at SE 26th and Clinton this Saturday and Sunday.


A row of parked cars outside Sub Rosa will move south into what’s currently a dedicated turn lane on Clinton, creating room for umbrellas, chairs, and tables.

Better Block PDX spokesman Ben Chaney said Wednesday that the project has cost the organizers several hundred dollars, including $50 for a city permit, $200 for traffic control devices and $300 for structural materials.

He said the group’s goal is to experiment with what the plaza might look like and build support for a permanent change to the street.

“We’re encouraging anyone who stops by to kind of give us a sketch and tell us what they might think,” Chaney said.

He said businesses on the street hadn’t offered any objections to the two-day demonstration, so long as it didn’t remove any auto parking, and that owners of the Clinton Street Theater had been particularly supportive, inspiring the “Popcorn Plaza” name.

Better Block PDX organizer Jonathan Winslow.
(Photo courtesy Better Block PDX.)

The “plazas” will be set up at 9 am each morning and close at 9 pm each night.

“We have a great opportunity here to take what’s already a great intersection and take it to the next level,” Boris Kaganovich, a Better Block PDX organizer, wrote in a news release. “We’re hoping to inspire permanent change through inexpensive temporary infrastructure, change that will allow folks to linger, converse, stroll and shop.”

It’ll be exciting to see how people use the new space this weekend. But even if you can’t stop by, this looks like just the beginning for Better Block PDX. Chaney said the group is planning to “go even bigger” for PARK(ing) Day this September.

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  • peejay June 11, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    “…as long as it didn’t remove any auto parking” is one of the most infuriating phrases to my ears, and one of the biggest barriers to actual change.

    Hey business owners: sometimes change is for the better!

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    • Oregon Mamacita June 11, 2014 at 3:45 pm

      Unfortunately, you live in a democracy. Portlanders overwhelmingly like their cars- we have 550,000 cars in a city of 600,000. 94% of commuters do not use a bike. The business owners aren’t stupid- their customers often drive. Parking is scare already on Clinton, and things will only get worse when the tenants of the new no-parking apartments come and bring their cars (75% of renters have cars). So the little temporary parklets are cute, but don’t get attached to them.

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      • Lance P. June 11, 2014 at 4:36 pm

        I didn’t know that everyone that doesn’t bike drives. I wonder why we have Trimet. Hmm.

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        • Sho June 11, 2014 at 9:28 pm

          Speaking of which, good thing the bus doesn’t run here on the weekends or it couldn’t make the turn at 26th and Clinton as it hardly can currently.

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      • Tony H June 11, 2014 at 4:45 pm

        Actually, we live in a representative republic. We’re not a democracy. Never have been. For fun, check out some of the Federalist Papers. It’s amusing to read how some of our “Founding Fathers” (that term – yuck) compared Democracy to mob rule.

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      • Mij June 11, 2014 at 5:08 pm

        “So the little temporary parklets are cute, but don’t get attached to them.”

        Not sure how you got from A to B on that one. The parklets don’t impact parking, but your entire response is predicated on increased demand for parking.

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      • gutterbunnybikes June 11, 2014 at 9:30 pm

        Those commute numbers (of 6%) are only people that bike to work. There are many like me who drive to work because we have to (one ton of gear follows me for my job).

        Many of us who do commute by car (or in my case a truck) do most the rest of our errands on bike. And there is no clear numbers on the percentages of people that ride for other trips, or real bicycle numbers.

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    • Sho June 11, 2014 at 9:30 pm

      Its a good thing many of the bike shops around town don’t depend upon street parking as well or have designated parking lots. Irony?

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  • Hart Noecker June 11, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    A quick correction, this is a two day event, both Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 9pm. Our event page is here:

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  • Jim lee June 11, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    Number 10 bus turns at this coolest of all intersections, but does not operate on weekends, so we are good to go!

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  • PDXcommuter June 12, 2014 at 7:58 am

    The Clinton Street idea is awesome! Nice work Better Block PDX.

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  • Wendy June 12, 2014 at 9:08 am

    Actually, the area allocated to the parklets is part of the Clinton Bike Boulevard redesign for this intersection. See for details. Now whether they’ll ever fund it is another question…

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  • GlowBoy June 12, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    I’ll be checking this out this weekend for sure. That intersection is one of the worst 4-way stops in town, with long crossing distances for not only pedestrians, but everyone. Because of size of the intersection and its extremely irregular shape, a lot of drivers and cyclists get confused about who needs to yield to whom when they roll up. And when a pedestrian enters from the SW or especially the NE corner no one can tell right away which direction they’re actually intending to cross, which causes some car/bike users to wait and see, while others make an assumption and go for it. Confusion reigns. What this intersection needs is to be tightened up, and this temporary demonstration is exactly the way to do it.

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