3rd Ave in Old Town

Popcorn Plaza

October 3-5, 2014

Old Town Businesses and Better Block PDX launched a Complete Streets demonstration along 3rd Avenue in Old Town for three days. The project led to the development of the City’s first public plaza in the public right of way. 

3rd Avenue is a one way three-lane corridor which intersects a two-way downtown artery and bridge onramp, Burnside Street. Their junction rests in the Old Town Neighborhood and is home to many businesses, including Voodoo Doughnuts, a popular tourism attraction, and Dixie Tavern, one of our partners.

Popcorn PlazaWith the help of Old Town businesses, Better Block realized an alternate proportion between pedestrian, cyclist, and automobile use in order to balance and maximize functionality.

The concept included an extended pedestrian space along 3rd Avenue north and south of Burnside Street. A southbound protected bicycle lane (NW Davis until SW Ash) guided riders on their commute and replaced a frequently underused automobile lane.

Off paper the design was brought to life in the simplest form possible using lightweight inexpensive materials. In order to ensure accessibility, The Portland Fire Department collaborated with us on the design. Below, we run a lane width test with a fire truck.

South of Burnside Street, the sidewalks of 3rd Avenue grew into a plaza space filled with ping-pong tables, painting activities, hay bales and temporary seating.

The plaza received unprecedented use and even we were surprised!  A need in the community began to take shape and gain momentum.  Greg_Raisman_3Six months after mayor Charlie Hales was caught playing ping-pong in the in front of Voodoo Doughnuts, the Ankeny Alley Association won $80,850 in grant funding from the Portland Development Commission to make the plaza permanent.

Greg_Raismanphotos copyright of  Greg Raisman

3rd Ave - Financial Summary

Financial Summary
The 3rd Ave Better Block project, which cost roughly $8,000, leveraged over $140,000 in city investment within less than a year of the project.  The Portland Development Commission, the City of Portland’s economic development agency, provided a $80,000 grant to the Ankeny Alley Association to develop the City’s first public plaza in the public right of way.  Additionally, the Portland Bureau of Transportation committed at least $60,000 in re-striping 3rd Ave to include a double-buffered bike lane that will be wider than the adjacent two travel lanes.  The work of Better Block highlights the economic case for people-oriented streets and the importance of showing what is possible when engaged volunteers have the ability to temporarily re-purpose the public right of way.  It is also important to note, bicycle improvements on 3rd Ave were not on any of the City’s transportation system planning documents.  These improvements are a direct result of the grassroots organizing and consensus driven approach that Better Block facilitated as part of its 3-day pilot.

Proposed plaza outside Voodoo Doughnut could be permanent by year’s end  | March 17, 2015
Michael Anderson, BikePortland.org

Old Town will test a huge plaza for pedestrians and cyclists, for a single weekend in October | September, 2014
Jamie Hale, Oregonlive.com (Oregonian)