After success of 3rd Avenue demonstration in Old Town, real changes are coming

After success of 3rd Avenue demonstration in Old Town, real changes are coming

Better Block

A temporary crosswalk across 3rd Avenue, crossing one lane of mixed traffic and one protected bike lane, on Oct. 4.
(Photo: Greg Raisman)

Two months after a three-day demo of a human-oriented 3rd Avenue captured many visitors’ imaginations, permanent changes are afoot.

The city is proposing to spend $10,000 next spring to add paint to 14 unmarked crosswalks on NW 2nd, 3rd and 4th between Burnside and Glisan. Several nearby properties have just changed hands. And Howard Weiner, chair of the Old Town Community Association, is working on plans that could bring much larger changes to the area.

“The crosswalks have been part of our vision plan for the last 10 years,” Weiner said Thursday. “We’re starting a one-year run of making changes that benefit the community on Third Avenue, and this was just a piece of that.”

old town crosswalks

A city proposal for new painted crosswalks north of Burnside in Old Town.
(Photo: Ryan Hashagen)

Ryan Hashagen of Portland Pedalworks, which operates pedicabs and other bike-and trike-based businesses out of the area, called both the crosswalks and the ongoing plans “great news” and credited city traffic engineer Rob Burchfield and demo organizers Better Block PDX for helping the neighborhood make long-desired changes.

Howard Weiner in Old Town-3

Howard Weiner.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Weiner said the neighborhood may create a second temporary demo, similar to October’s but modified here and there, in the spring.

“This time I’m trying to bring all the property owners to the table, so they already have the buy-in, and hopefully the second time around we can get it pretty close to what we want it to look like,” Weiner said.

The general goal of Weiner and some other neighborhood leaders is to both reallocate some of the space on Third Avenue between Everett and Ankeny for walking, sitting and biking, and to create a more continuous connection linking the popular Ankeny Alley and Voodoo Doughnut area with the storefronts north of Burnside.

One relatively simple change, Weiner said, might simply be to extend the street space overseen by the current Ankeny Alley Association around the corner to create a plaza in front of Voodoo.

“That has the mayor’s office excited,” Weiner said. “What it would take is property owners and business owners willing to take on financial responsibility for that space and activate that space.”

Better Block demonstration project on 3rd Ave-17

The October demo included hay bales in the street outside Voodoo Doughnut.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

That might be done by a vote of local property owners and business managers, who could agree to a local fee to be added to their property tax bills to pay for extra maintenance or programming of a plaza similar to those in Pioneer Courthouse Square or Director Park.

Weiner said changes to the streets might be paid for out of the neighborhood’s urban renewal funds, though there are also other options.

Meanwhile, a local developer has just put a big bet on the area. In late October, John and Janet Beardsley’s Fountain Village Development LLC bought three buildings on Northwest First and Second Avenue for $8 million.

A key factor in Old Town right now is the three-year closure of part of the entertainment district to cars on Friday and Saturday nights. These temporary police-supervised areas led to fewer police calls but a drop in business for the area’s nightclubs and restaurants. The city council agreed this fall to shrink the area but not eliminate it.

Weiner said Thursday that he supported the council’s approach, because it’s convinced business owners who depend on weekend patronage to participate in the Old Town Hospitality Group’s efforts to rethink the area.

“If we just let it go, the rubber band goes back to its original form, and we don’t want that,” he said.

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