Local design contest offers $20k for great ideas about downtown’s ‘green loop’

Local design contest offers $20k for great ideas about downtown’s ‘green loop’

green loop visualization

A vision for an all-ages bike loop linking the central city.
(Image: Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability)

The concept of a low-stress bike loop surrounding Portland’s central city will get a high-profile burst of ideas.

The Green Loop, as the concept is known, is supposed to eventually include Tilikum Crossing, the Park Blocks, the Broadway Bridge (including a redeveloped post office site), a new biking-walking bridge across Interstate 84 just south of the Lloyd District and an undetermined route through the Central Eastside Industrial District.

Now, it’s been chosen by the University of Oregon’s John Yeon Center for Architecture and the Landscape and the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability as the subject of a $20,000 design contest that’ll cap Design Week Portland in April.

The challenge is different for people with different specialties. Here are some passages from the contest description:

For architects, urban designers, landscape architects, makers and others interested in designing built pieces, the goal is to create places.

Deliverables should explore a single or multiple sites along the loop. Your submission should propose specific art, furniture, signage, and other ingredients that will create dynamic public space—fast.

For communication designers and strategists, the goal is to build an identity for implementing the green loop.

Deliverables should excite the public about the overall concept . A logo is not the desired outcome. Rather, your submission should propose an approach for communicating the opportunities of the loop.

The contest also invites people to “make a place that exemplifies a strategy” or to “design a strategy and make an example.”

The Green Loop is an interesting beast. (Here’s our coverage.) It emerged from the city’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, not the Bureau of Transportation, Parks Bureau or Portland Development Commission, one or all of which would presumably pay for it. From what we can tell, biking advocates both inside and outside city government are divided on the concept.

In a recent interview, Bicycle Transportation Alliance Executive Director Rob Sadowsky used the Green Loop as an example of bike infrastructure he felt is hard to justify because it would seem to benefit richer people. The BTA hosted a ride on New Year’s Day that highlighted a similar concept taking shape in east Portland known as The Green Ring, which supporters say would make an “active transportation beltway” around Lents Town Center by connecting neighborhood streets with the Springwater path and other bikeways and walkways.

(Update: Sadowsky added more thoughts in an email Wednesday: “What I believe that I’ve said consistently about the Green Loop is not that it is not a good project and that it would only benefit rich people, but that if we are going to hold up a wonderful project to go after in downtown, then we should either simultaneously support the Green Ring in Lents or start with that one. But by focusing on this downtown project (and give it the incentives like a $20,000 award) and not do that in East Portland perpetuates inequities rather than builds equity.”)

We think Portland should have lots of green loops and rings. When it comes to the official Green Loop that’s gaining steam in the central city, no one would doubt that there are more people biking there than through any other part of the city.

The contest focuses specifically on five locations that could definitely be much more pleasant than they currently are:

green loop key connections

That’s the Park Blocks crossing of Burnside, the east landing of the Broadway Bridge, the wide intersection of Sandy and 7th, the 8th Avenue crossing of the Orange Line and the hillside between SW Harbor Drive and Naito Parkway, across Harbor from the new Orange Line viaduct.

There’s a lot of potential here. What do you think is possible?

Or, to solve a problem that Portland seems to have more frequently: What ideas do you have for helping your city accomplish the possible?

Proposals are due Feb. 29, but people who plan to submit must register by Jan. 22. Students can apply for free; professional firms must pay $50 to $100 depending on size. The winner will be chosen by a jury of “three nationally known designers” who “will join local stakeholders.”

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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