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Portland Is Better Because…?

A San Diego Writer Said It Is, But There’s More.

Two bank towers in downtown Portland. image via David Gillaspie

Two bank towers in downtown Portland.
image via David Gillaspie

This man who knows Portland is better.

From UrbDeZine San Diego:

“Bill Adams is the founder and chief editor of UrbDeZine. He is also a partner in the San Diego law firm of Norton, Moore, & Adams, LLP. He’s been involved with land use and urban renewal for 20 years, both as a professional and as a personal passion.”

The Portland he sees from the outside is different from the inside.

Below is an expanded look at “Seven Ways Portland Is Better.”

1. Portland puts street level before skyline.

A Baby Boomer resident looks at the First Interstate Tower and Big Pink and sees a future that didn’t happen.

One tall building was enough, or so the thought went, but two is better? Because they’re bookends instead of standing side by side, the space between them looks ripe for in-fill.

That it hasn’t happened bodes well for keeping Portland clear of more towers. Not Seattle or San Francisco, the vibe here is more crown jewel than kingdom.

Besides, Portland has a lovely skyline. Seen from the Eastside it resembles the Manhattan view from the Brooklyn Esplanade except for the size factor.

2. Tolerance.

Portland is more tolerant than San Francisco? From naked bike rides, to the Pride Parade, to endless beer festivals, it might look that way. But where is the Castro? Where is the huge rainbow flag beacon of tolerance?

Instead of a district, Portland has club locations. Chinatown got a gateway, but the other ‘towns’ still wait for their close-up.

3. Preservation and adaptive reuse.

Since Portland is a known leader in cast iron architecture, it’ll be hard knocking those buildings down for new ones.

Using the Pearl District as a guide, how many cities have spruced up a warehouse district near the train yards? Every city offering a fresh urban core to new arrivals.

The pearl has come a long way from prime storage to prime loft-living. It’s perfect for the down-sizing Boomers leaving the suburbs for their next life adventure minus the yard work.

4. Priority rather than equality for non-auto transportation projects.

How does this make Portland better? Take a look at the new light rail bridge work crossing the Willamette south of the Ross Island bridge.bridge

Then listen to the smart guys in the room talk about riding their bike to the new light rail stop and connecting to destinations within the Metro area.

Alternative transportation isn’t a hipster dream when Boomers who drive a two hour commutes every day move to the eastside so they can add more living to their day.

Call it leadership, follow the leader, or just good luck, but Southeast Portland carries the torch for a better city.

5. Grid relief.

Big city experience from the East Coast shows Portland with only one real city street. The SW Park Blocks have the bad parking, the narrow streets, and the destinations that draw crowds, like the Oregon Historical Society.

Visitors from out of town, like Gresham, see the Park Blocks and freeze up. Every street isn’t big enough for a U-turn, so don’t try. Everyone in Portland isn’t a thug or a weirdo, in spite of continual efforts to Keep Portland Weird.

Bill Adams likes the idea of small blocks and no alleys downtown. NW Boomer still sees alleys, but nicer alleys masquerading as streets.

6. Parks.

Any city with a park named Forest Park, and it’s an actual forest, has a leg up on the competition.

Chain your bike up in Lower Macleay Park in NW Portland and walk the only trail you’ll find. Stay to the left and you’ll eventually leave the claustrophobic canyons and come out in the parking lot of the Pittock Mansion and one of the best views of the city.

That walk shows what the West Hills used to look like.

For a different sight, ride your bike up NW Thurman until it turns into a gravel road with a gate. Lift your bike over the bar and ride Leif Erikson Drive all the way to Skyline for a huge view of the westside suburbs.park

It may not be called a park, but it feels like one.

Waterfront Park is the only example you need to see how much Portland loves its parks. Pioneer Square might be Portland’s living room, but Waterfront Park is the backyard.

7. Trees.

Old timers, and historians, know Portland as the one-time Stumptown. A huge forest once sat on the banks of the Willamette, then the remains of a huge forest in the way of huge stumps.

How big? You can find ancient stumps in second growth clear cuts. Think redwoods, then scale back. That big.

Big trees cover the Park Blocks to create a green tunnel down the middle. More grow in NW Portland, lifting up sidewalks to keep the residents spry.

There are so many trees in Portland that leaf disposal is an institutionalized effort.

Alexis de Tocqueville showed early America to the rest of the world, and now Bill Adams does the same for Portland.

A big NW Boomer shout of thanks to you, Mr. Adams. You’d be a fine Oregonian.

d-river

Me and my city.

About David Gillaspie
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