‘Bear Blocks’ will bring new bike-friendly gathering space to Blumenauer Bridge

Coming soon to southeast landing of Blumenauer Bridge. Bridge would be on the left. NE Flanders is at the bottom. (Graphic: TwentyFour7)
(Map: BikePortland)

A new public space on the south end of the Blumenauer Bridge is set to debut in the coming weeks. ‘Bear Blocks’ is a collaboration between the owner of a paved lot adjacent to the southeast landing of the bridge, a nearby event management company, and a nonprofit.

According to Friends of Green Loop Executive Director Keith Jones, his organization will manage the project in partnership with TwentyFour7, a brand marketing firm located nearby on NE 9th Avenue. TwentyFour7 will be the programming partner and will do the construction build-out. Friends of Green Loop will lease the space from property owner, TBH LLC.

Jones says it’s all part of an effort to increase activation of public spaces in the Lloyd and along the Green Loop — the City of Portland’s six-mile linear park project that is still in its infancy. “We wanted to do something other than a food cart pod,” Jones shared with BikePortland Thursday. Jones — who gives credit to local bike advocate, business owner, and former leader of nonprofit BikeLoud PDX, Kiel Johnson, for getting the idea off the ground — sees a lot of potential for the space.

And Jones isn’t the only one excited about this project: He has already won a $16,500 community livability grant from Prosper Portland to make it happen.

The idea is to have outdoor seating, rotating food and drink vendors, two performance stages, new signage on the bridge, and of course, lots of bike parking. PBOT counts show about 700-1,000 people cross the Blumenauer Bridge per day — that’s an impressive number (about half the weekday total on the Hawthorne) that gives Jones and other project partners lots of optimism that this space can become a biker hangout.

“We see this as a perfect landing spot for cyclists,” Jones said.

And Kiel Johnson shared with BikePortland this morning that, “It is an amazing location that should be an important rallying point for Portland bicycling culture.”

Another idea from TwentyFour7 is to build a bike-thru window where you’ll be able to swing in and grab a breakfast burrito and coffee as you ride across town to work or that morning meeting. Or heck, it’s a cool enough spot to be a ride destination!

Friends of Green Loop Executive Director and Bear Blocks project leader Keith Jones leading a Pedalpalooza ride in 2022. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Jones attended a private party at the space earlier this year and said, “It’s beautiful. You’ve got the bridge lit up and you can see the entire city. And it’s surprisingly quiet and with the music going, it’s amazing.”

And if done right, the spot could also lure the thousands of convention-goers that stay in hotels in the Lloyd just across Sullivan’s Gulch. Right now, many Portland visitors stay in the Lloyd along the busy MLK/Grand couplet — an area that isn’t all that memorable. But if all goes according to plan, they’ll hop on bikes and roll over to Bear Blocks for a true Portland experience closer to their rooms and easier to access than downtown. Jones says he wants local bike advocacy nonprofit BikeLoud PDX to have a permanent presence at the site.

The northern section of the lot is used as employee car parking for local businesses during the week, but on weekends it will be open for use as a market space. Jones already has plans for a holiday market in December.

This is the second example of bike-oriented development (BOD) we’ve heard about since the Blumenauer Bridge opened in July 2022. Earlier this year a bike shop opened nearby and its owner said he feels the new bridge is a “major draw” for his customers.

The build-out of Bear Blocks is imminent and Jones hopes to have it wrapped up in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for announcement of a grand opening party for the bike community. Maybe we’ll help kick off with a group ride from Bike Happy Hour!

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Jay Cee
Jay Cee
9 months ago

This looks awesome and sounds like it would be great for the area

OregonRainstorm87
OregonRainstorm87
9 months ago

so rad! Keith is a passionate advocate for both Portland and the bike community!

PTB
PTB
9 months ago

“Another idea from TwentyFour7 is to build a bike-thru window where you’ll be able to swing in and grab a breakfast burrito and coffee as you ride across town to work or that morning meeting.”

LOL

maxD
maxD
9 months ago

This could be fun, it will depend on the programming since there very little inherently appealing about the site. The article calls this a new public space, is that accurate? It sounds like a private lot that is being temporarily programmed for a year as a food/entertainment venue. That is not a bad thing, but it is not a public space. I was surprised to hear the Green Loop was still a thing! The north end of the Blumenauer Bridge is designed for extremely low bike/ped use, and southbound 7th at Lloyd is designed to accommodate the maximum number of cars. Based on what is built, PBOT is planning and designing for many more cars and very few bikes/peds.

Amit Zinman
9 months ago
Reply to  maxD

It really felt like a bridge to nowhere when it opened, but that’s in part because the route that leads to it and the area around it are still being developed. The Green Loop is definitely a thing, so the it gets developed, the more sense that bridge will make.

maxD
maxD
9 months ago
Reply to  Amit Zinman

I get that the development is not there, but my point is that PBOT is not designing or building Green Loop infrastructure, they are designing and building for a small trickle of bikes. The north end of the bridge with the awkward 90-dgree turns and pedestrian mixing is just one example. PBOT finally got around to working on the greenway south of the bridge…but they added a stop sign at Davis FOR BIKES. even a lame greenway is supposed to have some bike prioritization! Rinse and repeat all the way down to Washington. No one ever figured out a good way to get the Green Loop through the CEID- the current proposal is a 2-way cycletrack on one side of 7th. That is unlikely to to ever feel comfortable or be safe with the amount of driveways and cross streets. For a while, they were pitching a bike way down half of 6th with alternating one-way (every 3-5 bocks) for drivers- that would be more transformational. The Green loop has a lot of potential on the west side IF they remove parking along the park blocks and really go for it. Unfortunately, from what i have seen, the plan has not progressed beyond the concept level, so there is not enough of a well-designed plan to defend, meaning it is suffering from a death form a thousand cuts as PBOT continues to make decisions to preserve auto convenience rather than accommodate a design that doesn’t really exist. All this is theoretically fixable, but with PBOT’s budget woes, if something is newly built, I would not expect it to get rebuilt for the next 20 years, maybe 10. So we are stuck with a terrible connection at the north end of the Blum. Bridge, and a substandard greenway leading to a sketchy, cramped path on the south end of the east side. Hopefully PBOT will make better decision on the west side and we can a green corridor

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
9 months ago

This is depressing. Instead of using public funding to create a bougie bike park we should be using this space for temporary or permanent supportive housing. I mean, FFS, there are few locations in PDX that are so well connected to resources.

OregonRainstorm87
OregonRainstorm87
9 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

it is a privately owned parking lot that they still use M-F, why would we turn it into housing? Go after all the big ass parking lots for businesses that have closed, there are plenty around

pierre_delecto
pierre_delecto
9 months ago

The funding is coming from a public agency:

We are the economic and urban development agency for the city of Portland. 

Private parking lots have been used for temporary supportive housing many times in PDX. Moreover, this lot sits empty most days (as is the case for most Parking lots in the Lloyd district)..

OregonRainstorm87
OregonRainstorm87
9 months ago
Reply to  pierre_delecto

yes but public funding is earmarked for *specific things*, it just doesn’t get to go to whatever, whenever. Metro has a couple million++ sitting around they need to use that is earmarked for this specific thing, go bug them for money for housing. plus there is a giant empty parking lot at the Lloyd Center movie theater where a housing project fell through, start there. you’re really digging in deep on your totally out of touch, obviously-don’t-know-how-things-work comment, my dude

Keith
Keith
9 months ago
Reply to  pierre_delecto

Hi there, here is a link to the grant we applied for: https://prosperportland.us/portfolio-items/community-livability-grant/ It is an open competitive grant. It should be noted that the total project cost is much, much more than we were awarded by Prosper Portland and that funding is coming from the private sector. The funding provided by Prosper allows us to stretch our financing further and do much more. Also, the lot is zoned Industrial due to its location in Central Eastside’s industrial sanctuary. The long term goal IS to convert this to a housing project, but changing zoning is complicated. Green Loop could maybe help make that easier.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
9 months ago
Reply to  Keith

the lot is zoned…blah…blah…blah

There is no shortage of luxury market-rate housing in Portland (as can be seen by vacancy rates at the high-end). There is a long-term shortage of shelter-beds, supportive-housing, and lower-income housing. The kind of real-estate development that The Green Loop shills for will do little to address ever-worsening inequality in this late-gentrifying city.

Arturo P
Arturo P
9 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

Oh please. Something that actually looks like it might be cool and your’re pouring cold water on it. If I didn’t know better I would have thought this was a sarcasm
comment on the current plight of Portland. LOL.

quicklywilliam
9 months ago

I love this idea and hope it succeeds. There’s so much to be gained when “bike infrastructure” also creates safe, public spaces for all. See you there!

dw
dw
9 months ago

This is phenomenal. I always love to see parking lots repurposed for people. Hopefully it’s a hit and can turn into something more permanent. I don’t care what the haters say, I’ll still be checking it out.

I do hope they can put some staple racks in the long term plans though. Those racks in the picture are wheel benders and terrible for your fenders!

JP
JP
9 months ago

This is fantastic. A suggestion would be to drop one of the performance stages (how can you use two simultaneously?) and install a kids play area. For example, a little play house or a sand box or something to climb on. I saw this a food cart pod in Sisters and it was popular for families.

Fred
Fred
9 months ago

should be an important rallying point for Portland bicycling culture.

<yawn> Portland bicycling culture </yawn>

Keith has a sweet trailer, though.