When the Portland Bureau of Transportation launched their “Healthy Business” permit program, they encouraged multiple businesses to apply together. The thinking was that if there were several pubs and restaurants adjacent to each other, a combined application could lead to a larger, more successful street plaza.
Travis Preece took them up on the offer. As owner of two establishments on Southeast Ankeny just west of 28th — Tap & Table and Taco-ish (which share a building) — and co-founder of Gorges Beer Co. (which is right across the street), Preece found himself in an ideal position to take advantage of PBOT’s unprecedented offer of free road space.
The result is Portland’s best Covid-19-resistant outdoor dining plaza…
The design of the space is simple, welcoming, and comfortable. It features about two dozen tables spaced across the entire width of Ankeny between 28th and 27th. Umbrellas keep the sun away and there’s even an ice cream cart parked in the plaza for good measure. The most striking part of it though, is the “Rainbow Road” that’s been painted on the pass-through lane adjacent to the tables.
“The cyclist community has been a big part of the business at Ankeny Tap & Table for a long time, and now we have the opportunity to provide proper spacing for pedestrians, bicycles and diners.”
— Travis Preece, business owner
PBOT requires full-street plazas to maintain an 11-foot lane for bike riders, walkers and emergency vehicle drivers. Since the permit also calls for big barricades and “Road Closed” signs (a very unfortunate choice of words because the roads aren’t closed at all, they’re open to even more people than usual) some people might think they aren’t allowed to walk or bike through. That would be a big problem at this location since Ankeny is one of the most heavily used neighborhood bike streets in the city. The bright colors and placement of the rainbow not only encourage people to roll on through, they add an element of fun and whimsy to the experience.
Preece told me today he and his crew are doing everything they can to make the plaza work well for bike riders.”We are very excited about the promenade,” he said. “The cyclist community has been a big part of the business at Ankeny Tap & Table for a long time, and now we have the opportunity to provide proper spacing for pedestrians, bicycles and diners.” Preece added that the biggest challenge is keeping car users out of the street. “We aren’t permitted to paint arrows or otherwise direct traffic, so it’s been hard to signal to autos not to enter, while also showing bicycles where their 14′ wide open path is. All tables are off of sidewalks now, so pedestrians have plenty of space. It’s really just an adjustment, but most folks have been extremely happy and felt safe, and we hope that continues.”
We hope to see other plazas use paint to define the space. PBOT encourages it so much they’ve even worked out a deal with Miller Paint to give three gallons free to businesses owned by Black, Indigenous and people of color and a 30% discount to everyone else.
As per program guidelines these plazas popping up all over Portland are temporary and due to expire on November 1st. So check out PBOT’s map of current plaza locations for one near you and show your support.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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