Green Loop brainstorm: Five ideas for a park to ring central Portland

Green Loop brainstorm: Five ideas for a park to ring central Portland

alta green loop

Alta Planning/Greenworks envisions a green zigzag marking the path of a protected bike lane on N. Ramsay Way, just north of the Moda Center.

As Portland’s planning bureau talks about a future “Green Loop” biking and walking route around the central city, it’s just scored a burst of ideas from urban designers around the world.

A couple of the ideas even feature bikes.

Design Week Portland, an annual industry event taking place next month, has announced five finalists in its $20,000 challenge to propose ideas for public spaces along the route, ideally for the spots marked here in circles:

green loop key connections

One of the finalist concepts, pictured at the top of this post, came from the Portland-based firms Alta Planning and Greenworks. They came up with a very detailed design that we could imagine being a motif throughout a future Green Loop: a broken green zigzag across the pavement, clearly advertising the route and interacting with “parklet” planters that would separate bike and car traffic. It’s clearly reminiscent of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, one of the nation’s urban biking gems and a known inspiration for the Green Loop concept.

studio untitled green loop

Above is another striking design that would hang trees from a series of elevated railroad trestles. The Design Week description also mentions that the proposal includes a system of “rings of ownership”: “block-by-block partnerships between the city and private property owners.” Presumably people who attend the Design Week event next month will learn more.

It’s not clear how or whether biking would fit into this design. Maybe it wouldn’t, and maybe that’s OK. Looks like a cool place to walk.

swa group green loop

SWA Group of Sausalito, Calif., seems to imaging a corner similar to the one at corner of SE 7th and Sandy as a place for a triangular public plaza similar to those recently tested in Memphis and Chicago. This is a neat way to better use the extra space at this huge intersection, though we can’t help but wish the creators gave more than a moment’s thought to bicycling. Their concept for an “enriched street” seems to assume that bike and auto traffic just sort of takes care of itself.

bednar green loop

Peter Bednar of Prague offered what he called a “kit of parts” for low-cost street redesigns, including sharrows, big polka dots in the middle of intersections, and flowerpot planters to set off public plazas.

dhm green loop

By far the most expensive and dramatic vision comes from a pair of national firms, DHM Design and CH2m, which partnered with local architects Hennebery Eddy and Tad Savinar to propose a massive freeway-capping forested park across Interstate 84 between 7th and 8th avenues. Their plan calls for a paved path connection as well as a new public space that could become the anchor of a new set of “Park Blocks” for Portland’s Central Eastside. This resembles a plan in Hamburg, Germany to cap long stretches of Autobahn in green space.

The contest jury includes five out-of-town urban design experts, advised by a technical committee of locals. The contest’s lead sponsor is the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. The applicants will deliver full presentations of their proposals on Monday, April 18, 6 p.m. at Jimmy Mak’s Jazz Club; you can buy advance tickets here.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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