Better Blocks @ Hatch Soup

Better_Block_Hatch
Better Block PDX was chosen among 5 finalists to present at the Hatch Soup IV micro-grant fundraiser on August 30th. Better Block PDX will pitch an outdoor seating “Parklet Kit” used by communities during temporary roadway and plaza installations.

Tickets are available at HatchOregon.org. You may know Hatch (formerly Springboard Innovation) as the organization responsible with passing this years Community Public Offering Law, a type of crowd-funding for small business.

Marrow, Auzoud, Spare Change PDX, and Member’s Media are the other fine organizations drinking soup with us at the event.


Better Block PDX creates street re-imagination pilot projects that re-purpose the public right of way to include people as part of the engineering equation. Experiencing the city in attractive, engaging new ways has prompted momentum for urban livability improvements from city and community stakeholders. 

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Call For Volunteers!

Wanna help us build a Better Naito?  We’re looking for Volunteers for these next two weeks, along with volunteers for set up and break down the day of!

Interested in helping us with any of the following?  Let us know, Click Here to volunteer!

Naito Recreation, Friday May 22nd, starting at 4 am (Yes, it’s early) until finished

  • Folks who can move planters and other various things from the staging area to their places on the road
  • Folks to chalk the bike lane and pedestrian path
  • Folks to set up detour and re-routing signs

Traffic Counting

  • We will have various shifts throughout Better Naito to count the people walking, people on bikes, and people driving

Maintenance

  • Periodic sweep to make sure the planters, etc. are in good shape

Switch to Two-Way Bike Lane, June 3rd

  • Help us switch the bike lane to two-way at the start of Fleet Week

Breakdown and Storage, June 5th

  • Come celebrate a job well done and a Better Naito by helping us clean up!

Materials Needed Day Of

  • Do you have a Cargo Bike or a hand truck you are itching to use? Please bring it to the Set up or Breakdown!

 

Old Town/Chinatown 3rd Avenue Weekend Makeover

…Now that the word is out, don’t miss it!  Better Block PDX is helping transform Old Town Chinatown and filling it with pedestrian space, and a south-bound bike lane.

Wanna donate some cash? We’re tax deductible thanks to Umbrella! See our donations tab (https://betterblockpdx.org/donate).

Wanna donate some skills? We’re looking for volunteers for the weekend, and volunteers to help us build stuff!  Contact Us.

Stay tuned for more information, but in the meantime…checkout our flier:

Click for PDF

Click for PDF

After the Park: The Future of Portland’s Public Space

This post was written by Katrina Johnston-Zimmerman and originally published in part on BikePortland.org  

This year’s PARK(ing) Day has come and gone, but to those who had a hand in the event or just took advantage of the day-long parklet on SW Stark, it was a happy memory and an example of what a public space can truly be in Portland. It was a day filled with friendly conversations, strangers uniting over a game of ping-pong, and citizens enjoying a place to work or eat their lunch. For me, I consider it a great accomplishment, and passing the street today seems bleak by comparison.

But what made this day so unique? Portland has parks and plazas, public spaces that have seating options and other forms of programming. But our city doesn’t have small parks like those cropping up in cities everywhere. The location we chose is one of these places in the city that could use a chair-filled public space. The food carts are nearby, but no seating area exists aside from O’Bryant Park – a space with design issues and a lack of movable chairs.

Portland has a ‘street seats’ program, which can also be used for these types of parklets, much like the program in San Francisco that came about from the original PARK(ing) Day experiment. As of now, the program has only produced private seating areas for restaurants – an excellent solution to “sidewalk creep” to be sure, but not a public space. It’s also very unfortunate that the City caved to the Portland Business Alliance and decided to not allow any street seats in the main urban core. But that shouldn’t stop us from moving forward!

Parking Day-5
Streets are for people, not for cars.

Before plotting a course for future action, I wanted find out what Portlanders really think. First and foremost I’m a researcher – when not working on reports at a local research firm, I’m conducting mini ethnographic observations at public spaces and blogging about the results. I had done intercept surveys before, and I immediately recognized that this would be a great opportunity to gauge opinions of a public space like this based on not only a hypothetical drawing, but a real life example.

So what do Portlanders want?

If the survey has anything to do with the answer, they want more public spaces! In all, we got an astounding 142 completed surveys (only two people turned me down – you know who you are!) providing a wealth of data and many insightful comments.

The vast majority of respondents had been to the neighborhood before and thought that it had improved with the PARK(ing) Day use of space. They loved the increase in people, street furniture, fewer cars and safer speeds, increased bike infrastructure, and general sense of community. They also wanted to see more of things like this and thought that the city should take more parking spaces downtown and turn them into public spaces rather than increase parking spaces downtown. Respondents from out of town were inspired, wished they had it where they lived, or even mentioned liking Portland more because of it. Read the entire report here (PDF).

Whether by looking at the survey or simply witnessing the event itself, what that day showed was that by a simple intervention of movable chairs, a bit of programming (ping pong), and community support, a lively place can be created. What’s more, these interventions, or even permanent places, can be created fairly inexpensively and are wanted in our city. These kinds of temporary interventions can provide a tangible example of what our cities can be like and also give real time feedback in an effort to make them permanent improvements to our city.

And we’d like to do more.

This project was downtown, but there are so many other places in the city that can use this kind of improvement, these projects have unlimited potential. In other places, organizations exist that do these sorts of projects. One such open-source organization, Better Block, has successfully helped create better streets across the U.S. I’m happy to be a part of making the Portland version and keep the conversation going. Please visit our website https://betterblockpdx.wordpress.com and if you’re in Portland – we’d love to hear from you! Send us an email: betterblockpdx [at] gmail.com. Stay tuned for more updates!

PARK(ing) Day PDX Reclaims the Streets: VIDEO

This post originally appeared on Rebel Metropolis.

Last Friday was a day in Portland a little unlike any other. PARK(ing) Day grew out of the actions of Rebar in San Francisco almost a decade ago as a way to inform and inspire what our urban streetscape can look and function like through direct action of engaged citizens. Each year on September 20th, spaces normally used to park motionless motor vehicles are repurposed for people to enjoy with seats in the street, benches, tables, music, games, trees, flowers, art materials – all manner of outdoor amenities suited for folks looking to kill some time on a lunch break or otherwise wandering the metropolitan fabric of their city.

When one or two parking spaces are converted into a place for people, whether temporarily or permanently, it is commonly known as a parklet. Portland has several such spaces, though the Portland Business Alliance has blocked additional such spaces from being allowed permanent status in downtown. However, nobody seemed to know what to call a parklet the size of an entire city block last Friday, when a small group of urban activists unleashed the largest parklet in Portland’s history onto SW Stark st. Lead organizer and THINKurban.org founder Katrina Johnston-Zimmerman said her group had simply set out to make this year’s PARK(ing) Day PDX “bigger and better” than years past in order show how easily regular people can improve their streets any way they see fit.

As noted by Bikeportland.org, not only were there hundreds of people stopping to park their bikes and enjoy the ping-pong tables, benches, tables, and hammock, but the total impact of the mega-parklet effected far more than the space it occupied. People easily and safely crossed the street at any point they desired, as motor vehicle traffic was calmed to moving at single-digit miles per hour through the bustling block. Truly, it was the cars that looked out of place in the road – having to awkwardly maneuver to accommodate people strolling at whatever pace they desired.

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