Sunday, July 10, 2011

Day 5: So Long, Portland

On the whole, Portland - at least the parts we saw - has a great, livable, walkable feel to it. Not only were there plenty of stores and eateries (and drinkeries) within comfortable walking distance, but the streets had an inviting atmosphere, owing to the old-fashioned concept of building right up to the sidewalk without dropping a giant parking lot in front.

What impressed me, as well, was the relaxed zoning that allowed for cafes to be situated right in the middle of residential neighborhoods. I remember seeing that in Europe, but not in any American city that I can recall. Even if you mandated today that new construction should adjoin the streetspace - or even if you rezoned to allow parking lots to be filled in with new structures - it would take many years to transition from sprawl to density. But rezoning to allow mixed uses in existing structures can happen overnight, given the will. Some of this is discussed in the book Retrofitting Suburbia, by Ellen Dunham-Jones and Jill Williamson.

Portland is also taking steps towards encouraging  urban farming.  It's a great foodie town, obviously, and the food cart revolution rides on both trends. The cart pods are a great use of space, packing in a dozen or more micro-retail units as a way of standing economy of scale on its head. On our last morning we experienced the Saturday Market,  a weekly festival of food and carfts, eventually settling on a Nepalese cart as the ideal lunch location. We also waited in a ridiculously long line for the privilege of selecting from the outrageous menu at Voodoo Doughnuts. Just before heading south, we drank in the sublime architecture of the Multnomah County Library's main branch. The 14-foot bronze tree in the Beverly Cleary children's room is worth the visit alone, but the lobby staircases are masterpieces of craft.

Today we're settled in with kin in the smallish town of Sutherlin, a couple hours south. Later today we're off to Ashland. But as for Portland - we'll be back.

1 comment:

  1. Dude! Y'all drove right by us!!!! So sad! Would love to show you all the awesome swimming holes, pastry shops and ...and...and let us know next timeyou are passing through - we are in Eugene now. Big Hugs and happy trails, buckeroos! Bohannans