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Proposed plaza outside Voodoo Doughnut could be permanent by year’s end


ankeny alley rendering
Removable bollards would pedestrianize the road bed on 3rd Avenue outside Voodoo Doughnut.
(Image: Ankeny Alley Association grant application)

One of Portland’s top tourist attractions seems poised to become dramatically less car-oriented by the start of 2016.

An $80,850 grant last month from the Portland Development Commission to the Ankeny Alley Association will provide most of the money required to extend the sidewalk on Southwest 3rd Avenue in front of Voodoo Doughnut in Old Town, creating a plaza in place of an unusually wide traffic lane and substantially narrowing the road bed.

“Either we’ll get it done before summertime 2015 or we’ll postpone it to have the work done end of 2015,” Rob Cross, general manager of Dan and Louis Oyster Bar, said Monday.

PDC project manager Sarah Harpole called Cross’s faster timeline “optimistic.”

“The design is of their creation, I guess it’s fair to say, and it’ll be subject to whatever permits are deemed required by the city,” she said. “In particular I would say the Bureau of Transportation, since it’s their right of way.”

The news comes six months after a much-praised weekend demo project by Better Block PDX created such a plaza and also reduced 3rd Avenue from three travel lanes with auto parking and a loading zone to a single travel lane plus a protected bike lane and wider sidewalks between Northwest Davis and Southwest Ash.

The current design of the potential plaza area.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)
People enjoy a demonstration plaza on 3rd Avenue in October.
(Photo: Greg Raisman)

“The idea of having this closed pedestrian way is something that’s been in a lot of prior master plans focusing on this area,” Harpole said. “The businesses themselves were the ones that brought it to fruition.”

Cross said the local businesses will share the costs of keeping the plaza clean.

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It’s not yet clear how much of the space will end up being allocated to clearly public seating and how much will be treated as commercial seating, in design if not by the letter of the law.

“There might be some common seating, but more than likely they’ll just expand plaza seating from the businesses out to those spaces,” Cross predicted.

Here’s an overhead view of the Ankeny Alley Association’s proposal for the space, which clears a pedestrian channel through the current alley as well as moving more seating around the corner onto the widened 3rd Avenue sidewalk.

The dimensions of the proposed plaza depend on PBOT plans to restripe 3rd Avenue, which aren’t currently clear.
(Image: Ankeny Alley Association grant application)

Another open question: the fate of 3rd Avenue’s travel and parking lanes, including whether travel or parking lanes will be repurposed into bike facilities, wider sidewalks or anything else.

“Many people are hopeful that there will be continued funding or experimentation there, but no formal commitments are in place,” Harpole said.

In an interview Monday, mayoral project manager Chad Stover said Mayor Charlie Hales is “committed to working with the community in this area” to make 3rd Avenue a more pleasant place for both weekend evening and daytime commerce both north and south of Burnside.

“Just me personally, I think that two lanes is probably the right number to go all the way through,” Stover said. “It shouldn’t only be in the name of promoting a nighttime entertainment district, as we want a 24-hour neighborhood.”

October’s demo converted one general travel lane on 3rd to a protected bike lane.
(Photo: Greg Raisman)

One development shaking up the politics of Old Town is the semi-retirement of Howard Weiner, owner of the Cal Skate shop and the chair until this spring of the Old Town Community Association. Weiner has been a major advocate for continuing Old Town’s police-supervised street closure on weekend evenings.

“I believe the street closure on the weekends will continue as long as we have the number of folks coming down to party,” Weiner wrote this week. “In the end it is a matter of public safety … I believe the bars have to own this closure and find ways to make the area more appealing.”

Stover, the mayoral staffer, phrased things differently.

“I think there are some larger systemic changes that need to happen,” he said. “I don’t think anybody sees the street closure as a permanent solution to what’s going on in that area.”

Ryan Hashagen, owner of Portland Pedicabs, a member of the Old Town Hospitality Group and a volunteer with Better Block, predicted that more 3rd Avenue changes are on the way.

“We have made great recent progress and are on track for doing another Better Block this summer or spring,” Hashagen said. “Howard will be missed as he retires, but there is too much momentum and potential for success to stop this project and group.”

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