It’s like Sunday Parkways every day.
The Green Loop, a bold new concept of the Central City 2035 plan, envisions a linear park that connects people to places within and beyond Portland’s downtown neighborhoods and to the Willamette River. For the growing Central City, which expects to hold 30 percent of the city’s future population in the next 25 years, the Green Loop is for people. It’s a 10K run, a gentle ride or stroll, both recreation and respite, a place to pause and meditate or to gather socially or in solidarity.
It’s destined to become Portland’s version of New York’s High Line, Chicago’s new 606 or the Indianapolis Cultural Trail.
The Green Loop builds community, bringing Portlanders together in the heart of their city.
It seeks to provide better health outcomes – through greater opportunities for walking, jogging, rolling, cycling, and increased canopy and urban heat island mitigation. It aims to advance equity with an urban pathway accessible to all, extending outside the Central City and partnering with sister projects, like the Lents Green Ring, to share and build momentum for grassroots efforts in areas of need. The Green Loop will support businesses and social services, improving access to places where people can get goods and services. And it will reconfirm Portland’s commitment to greater access to parks and active transportation.
In turn, the Green Loop has the potential to become an iconic symbol of a city that values and supports all people: residents, workers, students and visitors.
A project so ambitious will need people, a diversity of voices and a multitude of hands to build, joining the momentum that is already growing.
One hot day last August, Northwest and Southwest Park Avenue became an “open street” – like Sunday Parkways – from Hoyt to Market. Portland’s downtown is built along the spine of the North and South Park Blocks. The western alignment of the Green Loop connects them together, from the base of the Broadway Bridge to Portland State University.
Oregon Walks and Better Block PDX partnered with the City of Portland to test this one-mile segment for the Open Streets Summit, an international conference of policymakers, activists and elected officials. “Oregon Walkways: Connect the Park Blocks on the Green Loop” was a mouthful to say, but simple in concept. Pedestrians and cyclists – visitors and Portlanders alike – took to the streets, joined in activities, listened to music, and ate lunch on a car-free, carefree Green Loop.
People from the Portland Art Museum, City Repair, the Bocce Ball League, the Multnomah County Library and countless other organizations and businesses volunteered time to put the event together. In 100-degree weather, people came to play bocce and ping pong, write notes on makeshift history placards dotting the route, follow the sidewalk chalk wayfinding markers, sip tea under City Repair’s gigantic T-horse on O’Bryant Square, ride a BikeTown bicycle, or stroll with a sea of corgis in the annual Corgi Walk in the Pearl.
Young designers make their mark
Four months earlier, five ambitious designers – Hiroshi Kaneko, William Smith, Dustin Locke, Courtney Ferris and Adam Segal of the studio Untitled – won the 2016 Loop PDX Design competition, co-sponsored by the University of Oregon’s John Yeon Center and Design Week Portland. Their entry featured a series of ideas that relies heavily on people, through collaborative design and public engagement, to guide and shape the Green Loop.
Their ultimate deliverable is a Green Loop exhibition to debut the collective thoughts and dreams of Portlanders. Oregon Walkways was the initial effort to reach a broader public audience.
The designers anchored the intersection of Southwest Park and Southwest Washington with an oasis of real grass in the middle of the street. Their toolkit included a three-dimensional map of Portland’s Green Loop with opportunities for people to identify barriers, ideas and insights. A larger street-scale model of a prototypical intersection offered Portlanders a chance to write and design their ideas on the ground. Under a canopy of O’Bryant Square’s luxuriant shade trees, the lure of Untitled’s interactive sanctuary worked! Hundreds of people provided comments, stopped by to engage with the designers, and took selfies.
Help build it
Fast-forward six months later, and several degrees colder, and the Green Loop is a big idea with growing momentum.
- A grassroots organization, Friends of Portland Green Loop, has emerged online, calling for Portlanders to sign up to “Help Build it.”
- The Portland Bureau of Transportation’s Central City Multimodal Project – which will invest in near-term active transportation projects within the Central City in the next five years – includes a public process to identify the entire multimodal network and prioritize its build-out.
- The Sullivan’s Crossing Pedestrian/Bicycle Bridge over I-84, connecting people from the Lloyd District and the Central Eastside, a linchpin to the Green Loop, has begun planning stages in earnest.
- ODOT’s I-5 Broadway/Weidler Interchange Plan, set to deliver a key east-west pedestrian overpass at Clackamas Street from the Lloyd District to the Rose Quarter, will complete the east half of the Green Loop’s network, ultimately linking the Broadway Bridge to Tilikum Crossing.
- The Portland Develop Commission's Broadway Corridor Framework Plan for the U. S. Post Office site includes two new park blocks and a Green Loop connection from the Broadway Bridge as the centerpiece for the signature redevelopment project.
Come experience it
These key projects will all be featured together during Design Week Portland 2017, this April 21-29. The venue, Ecotrust’s Redd building in the Central Eastside, will showcase the growing industrial and employment district’s nearly 20,000 jobs and much-needed open space. The Redd will transform into an exhibition space for people to experience a scale models at the district, neighborhood and street level, complete with a mockup of a Green Loop segment to experience, have a seat, walk through and offer feedback.
Visitors will have a chance to don virtual reality goggles to experience in 3D different scenarios for how a Central Eastside Green Loop could potentially look and feel on the ground.
People are the heart of this great effort, the many hands it will take to build the Green Loop, and the diversity of voices that are needed to give it soul. Come join us; the momentum is building.