Portland wins state tourism grant to bolster carfree dining plazas

Posted by on April 26th, 2021 at 3:31 pm

Not very welcoming at all.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

A state tourism grant will allow the the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) to address one of our main critiques of their Healthy Business plaza program: The way they look.

“As visitors make their way back to Portland, it will be important to provide clear and consistent visuals that alert people to the location of these plazas.”
— PBOT grant application

Last week we shared how the carfree plazas that have popped up all over town to support restaurants during the pandemic need a bit of redecorating. Big “Road Closed” signs and clunky barricades that block the entire street don’t allow carfree spaces to reach their potential.

Turns out PBOT was already on the case!

They’ve won a $47,600 grant from Travel Oregon that will help them do a bit of tactical urbanism and promotion of the plazas. The funds come from Travel Oregon’s Destination Ready Grants Program, a nearly $1 million pot of cash aimed at, “Enhancement and stewardship of key visitor experiences that are COVID-19 appropriate,” according to the program’s website.

According to the ordinance up for adoption by Portland City Council this week, PBOT will use the money on a “placemaking campaign” for 20 of their Healthy Business Plazas.

PBOT’s application says the grant will allow them to implement temporary campaigns near plazas in the central city and popular neighborhood destinations like Clinton, Mississippi, Buckman, Alberta, and others. The idea will be more clear and cohesive branding aimed at helping people find the outdoor dining locations. “As visitors make their way back to Portland, it will be important to provide clear and consistent visuals that alert people to the location of these plazas,” reads the application.

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We’re likely to see other plazas follow this example on SE Ankeny at 28th: The grant will buy 200 gallons of paint.

PBOT has a wayfinding plan that will consist of signage and sidewalk decals. The signage will include health protocol basics, a list of participating restaurants, QR codes that will link to menus, and so on. Sidewalk decals will go on nearby streets and intersections to entice folks to the plaza. PBOT has learned a lesson from last summer that unless someone knows exactly where a plaza is located, they’ll miss it. “For example, standing on the corner of E Burnside and 28th Ave,” reads the ordinance, “you might not realize that a large outdoor dining plaza is one block away on Ankeny.”

Another exciting component of the campaign will be large-scale street paintings that will “contribute to a joyful user experience” and, “provide an additional visual that enhances visitor experience and creates a sense of place at each plaza.”

Where the money will go.

A line item budget for the 20 plazas the project will cover includes 200 gallons of paint, 80 weatherproof posters, 40 a-frame signs, 200 sidewalk decals, and 20 outdoor banners. Staff time is also key since PBOT had no budget for workers to implement these upgrades. The grant will provide $18,000 for 120 hours of staff time.

The new signage and street paintings are in the planning stages and PBOT hopes to have them ready to go in the coming months as plazas open for summer. The city currently expects the plazas to remain in place until at least October 31st, 2021.

As PBOT further improves these plazas, keep in mind that Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty wants more permanent carfree spaces. Hardesty has said she wants these carfree zones to be focused around food vendors in commercial areas. Perhaps the lessons PBOT learns from these pandemic-inspired plazas could end up inspiring something permanent?

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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D2
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D2

Honestly far more than beautification I think these spaces need removable bollards. Especially those that are only in a parking space along a busy road. Safety should be prioritized high above visual appeal.

Camden
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Camden

hopefully, better visual appeal leads to more people visiting these places, and more people who agree with you! sadly, safety is usually much more expensive, and so has to come second.

Charley
Guest
Charley

Yes! I’m glad to hear Commissioner Hardesty supports permanent facilities. It’s great for the community, and unfortunately, seems like a necessary hedge against further pandemic business disruptions. Not only is the current pandemic not over, but variants might extend its dangers. Also, I think community resilience demands thinking about how to mitigate the impacts of future pandemics: shifting businesses outdoors (especially restaurants) might be necessary again. It’s a bummer to have to think this way, but individuals, businesses, and governments need to plan ahead.

Matt
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Matt

So PBOT staff earn $150 per hour, on average?

Chris
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Chris

Nope. PBOT will include all benefits in their hourly estimate. (Retirement, health, etc) They are probably also averaging the employee’s work. X hours of secretary, x hours of lawyers and engineers, x hours of construction).

marisheba
Guest
marisheba

Transportation consulting firms typically bill clients at roughly three times the hourly wage of the person doing the work, so a client would be billed about $150 for an hour of work by someone who earns $50 per hour. The additional two thirds are to cover overhead expenses (this is standard practice in the industry and clients know this, nobody is getting duped or anything). Perhaps PBOT does something similar for grant proposals? $50 an hour still seems a bit on the high end as an average though.

marisheba
Guest
marisheba

By the way, PBOT publishes its pay schedule online, so you an look it up if you’re curious what folks make there.

EP
Guest
EP

Today I went past the SW Harvey Milk plaza and was looking at all the great potted plants and trees and thinking “Wow, this space is really coming together, why would we ever need to let cars through here again?”

Brendan P
Guest
Brendan P

I saw the language which included temporary, and I would ask: if you make an investment what about it being permanent?

Zach Reyes
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Zach Reyes

I hope that PBOT is going to collaborate with the businesses at these locations as much as possible. I would assume that many would wish to contribute their own artistic flare or outright $ to make the most of these improvements since their purpose is outright advertisement for these spaces. With some creativity it might help PBOT extend what they can accomplish with this fund.

Steven Smith
Guest
Steven Smith

“For example, standing on the corner of E Burnside and 28th Ave,” reads the ordinance, “you might not realize that a large outdoor dining plaza is one block away on Ankeny.”

Similar to how standing on Burnside (or any major inner East side roadway) you’d have no clue there are neighborhood greenways nearby.

KYouell
Guest
KYouell

I just can through the dining area on SE Clinton between 25th & 26th. The barricades work, but are too high that even on my very upright bike I can’t make eye contact with drivers on 26th. I hope PBOT can alter that as part of this upgrade.