The historic Heathman Hotel in downtown Portland is in the midst of a comeback. After suffering major losses through the pandemic, it was purchased by a new owner in April and its restaurant just re-opened in June.
Among the changes at the Heathman is a new general manager and she wants to set the record straight: She and her team love the Broadway bike lane. Not only that, they want the hotel to be a welcome spot for bike lovers — be they tourists or locals.
Why should you care about a hotel? Because the Heathman is located on Southwest Broadway, where the City of Portland installed a protected bike lane in 2022 that has been the source of controversy ever since. In fact, less than two months after the new bike lane went in, the former general manager of the Heathman went to the local media with concerns about the bike lane and said she planned to install security cameras to monitor what she felt were inherently hazardous conditions.
But that was then, and this is now.
Amidst the Broadway bike lane scandal a few weeks ago, I received an email from someone at the Heathman saying their new general manager, Laura Maldonado, wanted to meet. Turns out, Maldonado was aware of the Heathman’s previously icy relationship with cycling and wanted to set the record straight.
I met Maldonado at their tavern Tuesday afternoon. We sat in a booth overlooking the valets and the Broadway bike lane.
“I don’t want to be misrepresented,” Maldonado said, behind a clear excitement for her role in bringing back the Hotel and the streetscape around it. “It’s a beautiful amenity for our guests and our associates, and it’s right in front of our hotel.”
To be clear, Maldonado and I both agreed that the current design of the bike lane leaves a lot to be desired. The Portland Bureau of Transportation did itself no favors when they built a bikeway on the most high-profile street in Portland on-the-cheap. The lack of quality materials and design has only fueled hoteliers’ ire and certainly contributes to poor behaviors by some people who use it.
On that note, Maldonado is hopeful that a forthcoming loading zone platform promised by PBOT will improve not just how people behave around the bike lane, but the general aesthetics of the street as well.
Despite design quibbles and a slight reduction in valet parking zone spaces, Maldonado cannot fathom why any hotel owner would want to get rid of the bike lane. Looking out onto the street as a mix of bike riders and drivers rolled by, she said, “I can’t put two and two together about why some people think it has to be one or the other — it can be both.”
Maldonado wants to make the Heathman a very bike-friendly hotel, a place that doesn’t just have a few bikes for guests to use; but where guests can have fun experiences on them. She asked me to help create a biking guide for their website and wants to create maps with fun and safe local routes. (Since the Heathman is so historic (it opened in 1927), I encouraged Maldonado to display one of our vintage bike maps somewhere in the lobby.)
The Heathman has much more than business to gain by making sure downtown streets are safe. Maldonado was eager to introduce me to their Head Chef Andrew Shedden. “He loves the bike lane!” she promised before he walked over in his apron.
“They can’t take that away,” Shedden said, nodding to the bike lane. “I use it every day to get to work.” Shedden rides from Jantzen Beach into downtown and understands the value of having a protected lane.
Shedden is also a big fan and customer of the nearby Farmer’s Market at the South Park Blocks. The Heathman has an event where Shedden walks to the market with hotel guests for a culinary tour. Hearing that, I invited Shedden to the weekly Farmer’s Market Ride. He’s looking forward to meeting more people in the local bike scene.
On that note, I have a feeling last night’s meeting was the start of a nice connection between the Heathman Hotel and Portland’s bike community. Maldonado told me she doesn’t want her establishment to be filled with only tourists and that having locals spend time in their iconic library room, tavern, and restaurant, is a key part of their future success. She even said the Heathman’s doors are wide open a BikePortland gathering of some sort in the future.
Stay tuned! And next time you ride by the Heathman, give the valets a ring of your bell and a nod.
— In related news, get ready to spend your morning at Bike Broadway Day on Friday. BikeLoud PDX will have free coffee and donuts to rally support and remind Portlanders that protected bike lanes are a public safety measure. Event details here.