Portland Central City Arts Center

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Proposal to the Portland Development Commission for a new Arts and Civic Center in downtown Portland. Proposal incorporates the 2035 Central City Green Loop and Montgomery Green Street proposals.



  • INDEXObjectives + Proposal

    History + Precedents



  • 2035 Central City Plan Portland, Oregon

  • The goal of this report is to provide urban design recommendations that can be used as a resource and guide in the future development of the midtown blocks of downtown Portland, Oregon. The conclusions, proposals, and recommen-dations within this document are based upon thourough examination of the 1972 Downtown Plan, the 1988 Central City Plan, The 2012 Portland Plan and the 2035 Central City Plan. Furthermore, this report will focus on the Midtown blocks of downtown Portland South to North from SW Salmon to SW Burnside and West to East from Interstate 405 to SW Naito Parkway, especially between 8th & 9th Av-enues known as the Park Blocks.

    These blocks will be analyzed according tothe assessment made by The Midtown Blocks Planning Study by an Advisory Council ofExperts (ACE), as well as the previously mentioned plans, in order to propose an urban design strategyfor linking the Parks Blocks in an innovative way. The ACE study, submitted to the City of Portland in May of 2001, was an advisory council consisting of professionalUrban Designers, Planners, Architects, Landscape Architects, and Developers charged to evaluate design and development options for Portlands Midtown Blocks. The result of the ACE study was a four-step strategy for near-term development of the Midtown Blocks and the adjacent area.

    This report will focus on a strategy for achieving the East/West linkage, the Advisory Councils third recommendation, to Support the east/west linkage of the regional retail core to a new West End neighborhood, as well as other innovative recommendations for connecting the Park Blocks.

    The ACE study goes on to further define its third recommendation by stating:Redevelopment of the Nordstrom Block, the Zell Block, and the 10th and Yam-hill Garage into an integrated development that provides underground parking, covered open space, and a potential civic/cultural space... would serve to anchor and spark...a new urban form which captures the vibrancy of the commercial downtown, both park and plaza, built upon and open, public, and connect adjacent neighborhood.


    ACE East/West Linkage


  • This plan hopes to provide innovative ideas for this new urban form by focusing on four ideas that would initiate the east/west linkage of the Park Blocks:

    A NEW CIVIC FORMULA that provides a center for innovation and exchange

    A NEW EAST-WEST CONNECTION linking the Central City to the River

    A NEW ICON representing creativity, expression, and exhibition

    A NEW CONNECTION to the Green Loop


    ACE East/West Linkage





  • 1972 Downtown Plan

    In 1972 downtown Portland was a dramatically different place. Citizens, planners, and city officials came together out of desperation, under no official mandate, to make the urban center once again a vital and vibrant place.The plan consists of four Plan Element Guidelines:

    1) Land Use: Office, Retail, Entertainment, housing, Industry, and Community

    2) Environment: Open Space, Traffic Free Areas, Air Quality, and Visual Image

    3) Circulation: Pedestrian, Vehicle, Mass Transit, Parking, Freight, and Bus

    4) Building Density: Categorized according to 21 Planning Districts.

    The first of these planning districts the Central Office Corridor (COC), deals with the area that is the focus of thisreport. The boundaries of this corridor were defined as All blocks fronting fourth, fifth, sixth, and Broadway from Burnside to Market. The plan suggests that this corridorwill be developed to the highest permitted density, which at the time was zoned CXd. The proposed environmentfor this district was to was to emphasize retail on the pedestrian level, encourage building set backs and plazas, satisfy light and air requirements, and provide street amenities such as plantings, furnishings, wide sidewalks, and waiting shelters for transit users.

    The 1972 Plan also emphasized a north-south transit stating that Fifth andSixth will be developed as transit malls connecting the COC to long-term pe-ripheral parking.... The plan calls for a secondardy east-west transit corridor along Morrison and Alder... that create east-west pedestrianwaysthrough the district to the Government Center and the Park Blocks along Madison and Main, through the retail core on Morrison and Alder, and alongAnkeny Street on the North.

    History + Precedents

    1972 Central Office Corridor

  • Major Pedestrian Circulation & Bikeways

    Traffic Free Areas

    The Plan goes on to define these east/westPedestrianways in the following manner:a. Connecting the pedestrian systems in the Portland State University district, PortlandCenter, and the Waterfront.

    b. Main & Madison Streets connecting the waterfront,government center, South Park Blocks, and LicolnHigh School

    c. East-West transit malls along Morrison & Ader Streets from the Waterfront through the retail core to housing and office areas west of Tenth.

    d. Ankeny Street through the Skidmore Founatainhistoric area from the Parks Blocks to the waterfront.

    e. Flanders Street from the Northwest Residential District to the Waterfront.

    These east/west connections, along with the recommendednorth/south connections, would establish a comprehensivesystem of access and linkage to the waterfront fromalmost every point of the Central City.

    The plan describes the general character of theseproposed pedestrianways as compact, colorful, intense,exciting with a strong pedestrian, orientation. Anentirely auto-free precinct is idea. In order to provide a focal point to link these Pedestrianways, the plan calls for a major public square or gathering place and states that The Pioneer Courthouse and adjecent block to the west present the best location for this purpose.

    The construction of Pioneer Courthouse Square in 1982 was a major step in establishing the Central Office Corridor as an iconic, pedestrian oriented district. However, the east/west pedestrian connectors have seemingly fallen to the wayside.

  • 1988 Central City Plan

    1988 Central City Concept Plan

    Unlike the 1972 Plan, City officials and planners now had a starting point. Using the 1972 Plan and the Downtown Plan (1978), the city had some momentumto establish east/west and north/south connection through the downtown area.

    Within the first set of recommendations, the plan addresses the historical importance of the park blocks. The Park Blocks have been enhancedand continue to be one of the citysfinest assets. The plan calls for the additional improvements and the creationof new Parks Blocks to achieve a continuous park-like character from the the South Park Blocks to the river.

    The Concept Plan to the right describesthe waterfront as the cities single most important asset, all uses take advantageof this. The transit corridors becomespines of future growth. The Midtown blocks become the regions economic center, its transportation hub, an exhilarating environment, that focuses on the River.

    The Concept Plan also calls for the bridges to be improved into landmarks which knit the city together in iconic ways. The high density retail core remains inthe Central City with the most intensedevelopment occurring along the transit corridors.

    Lastly the plan describes how the parkand open space system reflects the importance of the river. A continuousconnection east/west and north/south is called for in order to provide placesof rest, connection and activity throughout the downtown area.

  • Transportation

    1988 Central City Concept Plan

    Natural Areas/ Open Space

    Proposed Civic Spaceto Link Park Blocks

    The transportation section of the plan focuses on improving access from the central city to the rest of the region, accomadating future growth, and enhancing the Central Citys liveability through transit and walkability.

    Since the transit mall was only partially developed,the majority of the tranportation plan focuses on its expansion. However, policy 4 of the transportation plan, much like the 1972 Plan, specifically calls for the creation of seperatedbikeways and pedestrianways, especially near parksand open spaces.

    The Parks and Open Spacesection of the planfocuses on linking the existing facilities togetherwith both an iconic, open space (Pioneer CourthouseSquare) but by creating greenbelts that tie existingopen spaces together using street trees, plazas,bicycle and pedestrian ways, recreational trails andnew parks.

    Differentiating from the 1972 Plan, the 1988 Plandevotes an entire section to Culture and Entertainment. It especially emphasises the promotion of public eventsand festivals that reinforce the Central Citys roleas a cultural and entertainment center by increasingthe number, diversity and clustering of public andprivate art and entertainment facilities.

  • The Portland Plan 2012 While previous plans focused on themes such as urban design, infrastruc-ture, circulation, and land use, the Portland Plan focuses the majority of its efforts on people. Prosperity, Education, Health,and Equity are the four main tenants of the document. Finalized in April of 2012, The plan establishes short-term and long-term goals under three ...Integrated stategies that provide and foundation for alignment, collective action and shared success.Thriving Educated Youth, Economic Prosperity and Affordability, and a HealthyConnected City. These three strategies are framed with the overall goal equity and opportunity for all Portland residents.

    Within this framework, the plan defines a timeline and specific action points to accomplish each goal. Under the Economic Prosperity and Affordability strategy the provides policies to enhance Public and Private Urban Innovation. It lays out three actions:1. Active Transportation including transit, streetcar, and bicycle systems2. Green stormwater systems3. The trail-linked open space systemIt goes on to define guiding policies for achieving these improvements, one of which states: Support and invest in Portlands creative talent and leverage our arts and culture community to drive innovation and growth. It goes on to state that using the Central City as a Center for innovation, commerce, universities, sustainability... will be vital in unifying these efforts around a central and recognizable public space.

    The diagram above illustrates the concept of Healthy Connected City Networkof neighborhood cencters and city connections. The diagram was informed bythe Parks 2020 Vision, the Metro 2040 Framework, The Intertwine, the BicyclePlan for 2030, and the Portland Watershed Plan in order to describe how the Central City should be used as a driver to achieve a single, multi-objective guide to the physical development of the city. The Central City is also described as the hub of a connected center in which prominent transit streets, streetcar and light rail corridors could be transformed into ...distinctive civic places of community pride that serve Portlands future multi-modal mobility needs and are models of ecological design.

    The Healthy Connected City Network

  • The Central City 2035 plan is focused on establishing the Central City as a center of innovation and exchange. The plan considers the 2012 Portland Plan and provides a 25-year framework, three strategies, and a set of goals to be addressed. The plan contains two primary parts: A Policy Framework, and an Urban Design Direction. It further refines these parts into three themes: A Central River, Distinct Districts, and a Connected Public Realm.

    Once again, the primary goal in the Urban Design Direction section of the plan is to Hightlight the Willamette River as the Central Citys defining feature by framing it with a well-designed built environment, celebrating views to thelarger surrounding landscape, improving east/west access and orientation andencouraging a range of river supported uses.

    A concept that surfaced within the 2035 Plan that seemed unique was the idea of Urban Design Experimentation or innovation. As the Concept of distinct Central City districts emerged throughoutthese plans, the idea that each one should be unique and innovative in character came intobeing. With this unique district character camethe concept of experimenting with each districtsurban form, identity, and design.

    The plan goes on to detail how street diversity, signature open spaces, and district linkages could provide unique opportunities to define each district insome innovative or experimental way.

    The final concept diagram of the 2035 plan goes on to suggestthat east/west orientation or creating distinctive and deliberate east-west connections from public open spaces, streets, and places will orient more of the Central City towar the river. The plan also discusses a new pedestrian and bicycle trail loop along the quieter streets of the urban center stating:This new loop will offer more protected walking and bicycling facilities around a set of of inner streets and open space connections, adding to the existing greenway loop from the Steel to Hawthorn Bridges.

    The plan suggests that this new Green Loop would serve as a defining connection for all of the Central Citys districts, open spaces, destinations,and of course the river.

    2035 Central City Plan: A Strategic Direction

    The Healthy Connected City Network

    Distinct District Green Loop Connection

  • Guidelines After review of these five planning documents, it is quite clear that there are several issues, or goals, that are prioritized above the rest in regards to the urban design of the Central City.

    First, and above all else, over 40 years of planning has defined that the riv-er must be the first and foremost concern when designing, making policy, or planning for the future of the Central City.This means both north/south and east/west linkages to the river from all parts of the Central City.

    Second, the Central City should serve as the regional incubator for innovation, exchange, and collaboration. To achieve this iconic, efficient, and experimental buildings, public spaces, and services must be provided throughout downtown. Art and creativity should be celebrated and displayed. Local talent should be woven into the fabric of the city. The Central City is to be a place directly associated with creative opportunity and community gathering.

    Third, proper and equitable access must be provided to the Central City inorder for it to properly perform as a regional hub. This means creating a proper balance between all modes of transportation whether it be auto, tran-sit, bicycle, or pedestrian. This means an innovative, active transportation network that includes green corridors, pedestrianways and bikeways, efficient and equitable transit, recreational trails, streetcar, and others. The Central City should be easily and enjoyably accessed from all districts in the region.

    Fourth, the Central City should c...


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