It’s been rough road for one of Portland’s carfree business plazas.
The Denver Avenue Plaza on two blocks of the Kenton neighborhood’s commercial district opened on August 5th. We celebrated the plaza as yet another success for the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s Healthy Business permit program that gives business owners the right to use streets for dining, commerce and other safe, physically distanced activities. Three days later some of the furnishings in the plaza were severely damaged by fire and destruction
caused by Portland Police officers and the protestors they pursued through the plaza (*Note: Many of you questioned my assertion that plaza damage was caused by PPB. I should have been more clear. The PPB did in fact knock down some barricades (as can be seen in this video clip). However I was wrong to say they caused “destruction” and the way I worded that sentence made it seem like PPB caused fires. That is not the case either. I regret not being more careful with this sentence. – Jonathan).
Now, less than a week after the Kenton Neighborhood Business Association raised money to fix the damages, PBOT has decided that the permit needs to be revised. Turns out the plaza and traffic detours that came with it weren’t popular with everyone.
As of today (August 17th), car drivers can once again use Kenton’s main street (the TriMet bus reroute will remain). There are still eating areas and plaza space in the curbside lanes (formerly used for free car parking), but the quiet and calm plaza is gone.
In a letter dated August 14th PBOT Development Permitting & Transit Group Director Christine Leon wrote, “Due to additional input and feedback from area business owners, this permit is currently being revised.” That same day the Kenton Neighborhood Association posted to their website that, “PBOT has determined that a reset on the plaza is necessary to ensure that the plaza is more inclusive and benefits all establishments on N Denver.”
We haven’t heard exactly what the concerns were or which business owners had complaints, but it seems like all parties are at the table and are trying to hash out some sort of compromise that will allow some of space to be reclaimed as a plaza. There’s also talk of possibly making the two blocks carfree only on weekends. “PBOT will facilitate additional conversations among business owners to determine an arrangement for N Denver for the remainder of Summer 2020, including the potential for weekend-only Main Street Plaza, Side Street Plazas, or only Parking Plazas,” Leon wrote in the letter.
The Kenton Business Association posted on Instagram that, “This change may be temporary and may be revised again soon. What has not changed is our determination to make the Plaza in whatever shape as safe and as enjoyable as a space as possible.”
PBOT is looking for more public feedback about the plaza. If you have something to share, please tell them using this online form.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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