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PSU students back plan to add parklet to SW 4th Ave food carts

Posted by on January 5th, 2015 at 4:56 pm

A few blocks north of the spot where Southwest 4th Avenue becomes Barbur Boulevard, a five-lane city street has been slowly becoming a place for people to enjoy. A team of Portland State University students is pushing this spot to its next step.

If it comes together — the current step is a crowdfunding campaign that would raise $15,350 for construction and the first two years of maintenance — it’d be one of the first fully public Street Seats installation in the city.

Since Street Seats was introduced in 2012 after several years of advocacy by Rebecca Hamilton and others, about a dozen private shops have gotten city permits to convert car parking spaces in front of their storefronts to public seating.

The “SoMa” (South of Market) neighborhood has a line of top-notch food carts across the street from several office buildings for the university and other institutions. As described in the video above, the “SoMa Parklet Project” would give food cart patrons somewhere to sit.


But unlike some Street Seats, the idea is to make the parklets feel truly public — a place where “anyone can sit down and read a newspaper,” as city program specialist Sarah Figliozzi told the Portland Tribune last year.

Creating that feeling requires more than just park benches. Here’s the project’s budget, including two “extra” features if the effort can raise more than the minimum.

soma parklet budget

From the project’s website.

“Most people think of this district as a place to pass through,” B.D. Wortham-Galvin, a professor in PSU’s architecture school whose course “Contingent Urbanism” helped inform this project, told the Tribune. “We want it to be a place to stay.”

Correction 1/6: An earlier post incorrectly said this would be the first fully public parklet. It would be the third; the others are on Alberta Street in front of the Tin Shed and Vita cafes.

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  • George January 5, 2015 at 6:55 pm

    Isn’t there a large plaza directly across the street from this proposed project?

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    • paikiala January 6, 2015 at 11:07 am

      Yes, if you mean the PSU engineering building campus space on the other side of the 3 travel lane and 2 parking lane 4th Avenue.

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  • Adam H. January 5, 2015 at 9:06 pm

    I’ll donate if they stop calling that area “SoMa”.

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    • Adron @ Transit Sleuth January 6, 2015 at 4:30 pm

      Yeah, me too. I saw SOMA and thought “poo stop of San Francisco”. :-/ Not Portland k-thx.

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  • sean January 6, 2015 at 9:12 am

    SW Alder and Park also please

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  • Oliver January 6, 2015 at 10:02 am

    “Most people think of this district as a place to pass through”

    Likely due to the fact that it sits immediately downstream from the major Interstate freeway exit for commuters entering downtown from points south.

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  • Kelly Francois January 6, 2015 at 10:35 am

    I love this idea! It’s progressive thinking like this, one little change at a time, that makes this city so amazing. This energy to keep pressing, to keep changing the streetscape is inspirational.

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  • ac January 6, 2015 at 11:47 am

    Yes, if you mean the PSU engineering building campus space on the other side of the 3 travel lane and 2 parking lane 4th Avenue.
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    with three separate crossing points in about 400ft: two crosswalks & a stoplight

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    • ac January 6, 2015 at 11:49 am

      not to mention these are food carts parked in a parking lot…should be plenty of space to locate seating…

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  • Spiffy January 6, 2015 at 11:53 am

    no, don’t turn the public street into personal seating for a cart-pod that isn’t even using its parking lot for customers…

    how about they just turn those carts around and put a few picnic tables in the parking lot?

    start citing people for blocking the sidewalk during lunch, like they do to the homeless campers…

    the cart pod is great, but it’s getting a free ride using public space for its customers… same with the other cart pods around downtown, many in a parking lot facing out so the parking lot isn’t used for customers…

    I hate that they make me wait on the sidewalk for my food while I block traffic just standing around because they couldn’t be bothered to provide the space they already have…

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    • paikiala January 7, 2015 at 9:39 am

      It’s likely the pods don’t own the parking lot, but rent space from the lot owner. So renting more space to provide a place to sit would also increase the prices of a margin business.
      As the road is public space, I don’t see an issue with repurposing it to another public use and benefit from it’s current designated use. Your post implies all the benefit acrues to the businesses, but it does not. The patrons of the business benefit, as does anyone else passing by who wishes to sit.

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    • Josh Gold January 8, 2015 at 11:35 am

      The amount of space the food carts are allowed to use parking lots is spelled out in their lease agreement. So food carts are set up in a particular way in a parking lot as per the property owner.

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  • Kirk January 6, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    Cool! I hope it happens.

    Michael – I’d argue that Portland already has (at least) two variations of Street Seats that ‘feel’ fully public. Maybe they aren’t officially fully public, but they sure give off that vibe. Read more about them here:

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
      Michael Andersen (News Editor) January 6, 2015 at 2:27 pm

      Kirk, you’re right. I heard from the city too and have edited the post. Thanks.

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    • paikiala January 7, 2015 at 9:34 am

      I believe the rules for implementation are that all of the street seats are public space. The one proposed is just also publicly funded, versus the usual privately funded spaces.

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  • was carless January 8, 2015 at 11:27 am

    I frequent this food cart pod weekly, and it gets so much business (thousands of people/day), that during lunch hours you can barely squeeze by all the people standing and waiting in line to order and pick up their food. I can’t think of a better place in the city for a parklet!!

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  • Tim Davis January 8, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    This TOTALLY needs to happen; people won’t believe how awesome it will be for *everyone* who walks, bikes or drives on this block of SW 4th.

    Montreal is FULL of street seats; there are as many as four per block in the hip retail areas. They add incredible vitality to the street scene. If you want to attract people (and increase business!), do more things like this! If all you see are driving and parked/parking cars (and parking alone causes about 35% of downtown car congestion), then you just want to skip the area. Plus, cities (at least *real* cities) are for PEOPLE, not cars.

    And who cares about calling it SoMa? Please; it’s just an abbreviation (and yes, everyone knows about SoMa in San Francisco–whatever). How about meeting or communicating with the AMAZING folks that are behind this effort? They are sooo worthy of our support!

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    • Adam H. January 8, 2015 at 12:27 pm

      My crack against “SoMa” was mostly tongue-in-cheek. I donated to the project despite the neighborhood name. 😉

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      • Tim Davis January 8, 2015 at 12:49 pm

        OMG–thanks so much, Adam! You made my day! 🙂

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        • Adam H. January 8, 2015 at 1:02 pm

          You’re welcome! 🙂

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