Revitalization

Good Urban Design in Portland, OR

By Jason Leach
Published October 05, 2012

Here's a quick sampling of pics from this morning in northeast Portland, Oregon. It's largely a residential, old suburb.

Beautiful sidewalks with micro-patios, street trees and curbside parking
Beautiful sidewalks with micro-patios, street trees and curbside parking

Street trees, bike parking and landscaping
Street trees, bike parking and landscaping

Public art, patios and sidewalk canopies
Public art, patios and sidewalk canopies

Patio tables and umbrellas
Patio tables and umbrellas

Greenways: beautiful dedicated bicycle infrastructure
Greenways: beautiful dedicated bicycle infrastructure

Greenways make great use of side streets
Greenways make great use of side streets

Patios are allowed and blend in with the low- to medium-density streetscape, unlike Hamilton.

A bike greenway runs one block off the Main Street. All stop signs face the other way, allowing cyclists unimpeded travel. Notice the curb cuts, bump outs, greenery and speed humps.

The quality of life feels so good walking through this neighbourhood, which has a similar density and design as the central mountain, east end, Rosedale and far west end of Hamilton.

When will our leaders and zoning staff relax the arbitrary regulations that choke innovation and allow vibrant little neighborhood commercial districts like this?

No residents here are complaining about having quality cafe/restaurant options with outdoor seating and bike parking next to their homes.

Recently in Hamilton, a new apartment developer in the Main/Kenilworth area was told no eat-in or patio dining would be allowed in their new mixed use building: take-out only.

In other words, we are mandating more chicken wings, pizza and fish 'n' chips instead of allowing business people the opportunity to bring something fresh and new with a small, tasteful garden patio at the corner into a part of town that needs new places to meet and gathering spots.

Why are we mandating unhealthy take-out food in Hamilton?

Relaxing zoning to allow such small scale, local business with nice patios and new food options that are becoming so popular would be a huge improvement to enhancing the quality of life and walkability of our older neighbourhoods.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted October 05, 2012 at 13:08:08

Its verry simple . City Hall have no clue how to make a city nice and comfy !!!

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By TnT (registered) | Posted October 05, 2012 at 23:21:30

City Hall has a nice patio.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted October 06, 2012 at 07:42:48

Were these pictures taken early in the morning? That city looks dead if they were taken at, say, 9am or 12 noon.

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted October 06, 2012 at 09:22:15 in reply to Comment 81445

Thoses pic was near an Art sculpture not a City Hall .. lol

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted October 06, 2012 at 09:27:18 in reply to Comment 81450

I believe that comment was referring to Hamilton's city hall.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 06, 2012 at 10:32:04 in reply to Comment 81449

around 8am. In far NE Portland. It'd be a similar hood to Rosedale. Was plus 7 out so only a few hardy souls on the patios...inside both cafes (they are on the same block) was jam packed. It's a very quiet, single family neighbourhood...which is why I posted the pics. In Hamilton you'd never be allowed to have quaint cafes and garden patios in a neighbourhood. We're forced to drive everywhere.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted October 06, 2012 at 12:02:58

"Recently in Hamilton, a new apartment developer in the Main/Kenilworth area was told no eat-in or patio dining would be allowed in their new mixed use building: take-out only.

In other words, we are mandating more chicken wings, pizza and fish 'n' chips.... Why are we mandating unhealthy take-out food in Hamilton?"

I don't see the connection, aside from the market default east of Wellington. Take-out only is not the same as "sub-par, nutrient-free take-out only." Nor is a patio any guarantee of a healthful kitchen, as anyone familiar with Joe Butt's, Harvest Burger or even McDonalds can attest. There are enough real dragons to fight without sparring with illusory ones.

Nice Portland snaps, though.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 06, 2012 at 19:32:42 in reply to Comment 81454

I thought long and hard before writing that little bit. My main beef is that city hall is choosing which food establishments to allow. I don't think they should. City-wide if you look at the ratio of greasy, unhealthy foods it sure seems to weight heavily towards the take-out only operations that exist from Ancaster to Dundas to East Hamilton. In my own neighbourhood I can get great food and ambiance at many places. All of the take-out only joints are pizza/wings/fish and chips.
Your point is well taken though - it's tough to quantify. Perhaps I'd be better off criticizing this decision on the simple grounds of preventing a possible new neighbourhood cafe or gathering spot that could have located in this building. I was amazed in Portland to see many of their nicest cafes and coolest new restaurants in the hoods that used to be run down and just fried take-out foods for the most part.
We want a better mix in central/east Hamilton and we want healthy neighbourhoods. Part of what makes a neighbourhood healthy is places like Johnny's Coffee, Bread Bar and Harbour Diner. No such place will have the opportunity to locate in this new building, thereby further delaying neighbourhood improvements that can play a critical role in adding yet one more healthy, community-focused piece to the puzzle.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted October 08, 2012 at 09:26:07 in reply to Comment 81457

What zoning provision disqualifies places like Johnny's Coffee, Bread Bar and Harbour Diner from locating in this new building at Main/Kenilworth?

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 08, 2012 at 10:03:41 in reply to Comment 81462

I don't know which zoning provision it is, but I read the report and staff took great pains to explain all the neighbourhood evils represented by a sit-down establishment with small patio. It's written right into the building permit that only take-out is allowed.

Every city I've been to on the planet has small patios tucked away in residential neighbourhoods for people to gather and socialize. Here we won't even allow it on Main St!

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 08, 2012 at 10:05:42

I should also explain to everyone that in the first picture above, you'll notice curb cuts on the sidewalk side of the planters.
I'll be explaining this more on RTH, but these are bioswale planters. Not only do they bring greenery to urban streetscapes, but they are designed to divert storm water from the sewer system into these planters. Hamilton should be all over this idea given our flooding issues and our lack of street trees on so many lower city streets.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted October 08, 2012 at 12:58:38 in reply to Comment 81463

I guess where I was going with that was, what's stopping a healthful establishment from opening there? I understand that the patio-free stipulation strikes you as petty, but the notion that restaurateurs are deterred from investing at Main + Kenilworth solely because they can't partake of the plein air street culture seems, on first glance, to be similarly capricious. Between Johnny's Coffee, Earth to Table and Harbour Diner, what's the average patio capacity? And isnkt it possible that socioecononic bias of private sector investors plays a key role here? What makes Locke South a more attractive locale for bourgouis bistros than, say, Kenilworth North?

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 08, 2012 at 18:52:38 in reply to Comment 81465

Sorry, I may not have been too clear in my initial statements. It's not just the patio issue that annoys me, it's the fact that they have banned ANY restaurant with ANY interior seating. They are mandating that only a take-out place open here. I realize a restaurateur could open a healthy take-out place, but let's be real, they are few and far between. If someone wanted an Earth to Table type menu, they would want it to be done in a casual, modern restaurant, not just a take-out counter with no ambiance.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 08, 2012 at 20:25:36 in reply to Comment 81462

The places you describe have dining rooms - they are not take out only. I'm not sure what you are taking offense to here: mandating "take out only" limits options for potential business owners. We need to be relaxing our zoning restrictions not tightening them.

If we are going to outlaw something, why don't we start with drive thrus? They do absolutely nothing positive for a community. But instead we say no to dining tables? And force more people to buy more disposable packaging (and likely deposit it on the curb)?

It's just backwards.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted October 08, 2012 at 23:08:09

Apologies if I seemed obtuse. I was unaware of zoning for "take-out only". I can see how that would be restrictive. What would the alphanumerical classification be, and is it a classification that can be appealed?

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 08, 2012 at 23:11:59 in reply to Comment 81470

thank-you...you've articulated in one post what I could not in several.

It is completely backwards. We should be encouraging new cafes and restaurants to open in our city and new neighbourhood patios, not less.

To illustrate, the first photo above is looking down the side street of the building in the second photo. Small patio on the side corner. The second building shown in two pics faces the main street with a patio and small parking lot at the corner with another side street. If city hall is worried about these small patios making noise at night (though, I'm not sure how a patio could ever drown out Main St) simply restrict their evening hours to 8 or 9pm. Instead, we throw up more roadblocks to new business and then wonder why the central city neighbourhoods lack the quality of life of Westdale or Locke South.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 08, 2012 at 23:15:08 in reply to Comment 81474

I'm not sure it's a zoning designation. There are several sit-down restaurants below apartments up and down Main St. I happened to stumble across the restriction reading the staff report on this particular building. I'm guessing the developer originally wanted a ground floor cafe/patio and for some reason staff wrote right into the zoning for his property that only take out establishments would be allowed.

I'm amazed at a) how many people want to develop on Main St in central/east Hamilton these days, and
b) how often we throw up red tape or block the developments altogether. (see seniors condos at Main and Balsam)

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted October 08, 2012 at 23:27:41

Locke South is resistant to patios as well, if memory serves.

Again, not disputing that a "take-out only" zoning classification would be restrictive, just unaware that it existed (and a bit perplexed as to how the zoning is so different from nearby Ottawa North).

That said, market demographics may be just as forceful a controlling element in this case. Locke South only became gentrified in the last decade, and James North/Ottawa North later still. Kenilworth has yet to reach that millenial tipping point. There is no Kenilworth BIA AFAIK, no charettes on street art or any media attention whatsoever save that pieced out for legal transgressions or industrial accidents. Restrictive zoning obviously isn't helping, but by the same token, fair trade coffee and artisanal bread served probably won't be the neighbourhood's miracle cure. And I say that with abundant love in my heart for fair trade coffee, artisanal bread and Kenilworth North.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted October 08, 2012 at 23:33:02 in reply to Comment 81476

Ah. So it's a site-specific anomaly. Good to hear. Sounds like there's a case to be made.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 09, 2012 at 08:55:41 in reply to Comment 81477

haha..well said. There will be a lot of things that will be needed to help bring back that hood, and streets like Parkdale and Kenilworth, but I guess I'm bothered by the lack of effort at city hall. Just because an area doesn't have a BIA shouldn't mean the city ignores it. City hall's job (in my mind) is to lay the framework for success. Portland did this in 'rich' hoods and 'poor' hoods - trees, bike lanes, new sidewalk planters/bioswales, safe sidewalks, complete streets etc... and slowly but surely, even the saddest of hoods has started to come back.

Kenilworth and Parkdale have all the potential to be like Leslieville in TO. Young families are moving back into surrounding neighbourhoods. Yet we are training them to drive outside of the neighbourhood for their staples by investing nothing on the commercial streets to make them attractive. I know it's a long process, but let's at least give it 100%.

Once development does return, the city stands to gain a lot of new tax revenue and investment....like the building at Main/Kenilworth. We focus on all the wrong things here - denying patios and sit-down restaurants while allowing horrible architecture and lousy street presence.

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By rednic (registered) | Posted October 09, 2012 at 09:22:23 in reply to Comment 81470

The drive thru at the beer store on Barton should be the first to go.

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By jamesandcannon (anonymous) | Posted October 09, 2012 at 13:02:17

James North does not have a BIA.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted October 09, 2012 at 16:13:48 in reply to Comment 81491

Perhaps not formally, but the business community is just as as organized and self-promoting as any BIA, exemplified by the "James North Initiative", circa 2008:

"...we decided that James Street needed something to market itself. There is no business improvement area here ... So we felt by maybe piecing this together we could give the information and also promote the events that are happening here on a bigger scale... James Street North needs organization. We’ve been approached by the city as well as the police and other organizations who are looking to deal with James Street as a whole. And the biggest thing that’s been missing is a real organizing factor ... James Street used to have a BIA and unfortunately it’s not around anymore.”

http://www.thespec.com/news/article/165046--dave-kuruc-where-is-james-street-north-heading

James North was the beach-head for two-way conversion, got factored into EcDev's expanded definition of downtown for grants/loans purposes, finessed three pieces of public art, where most streets received one (such as Locke South, which has a Merchants' Association *and* a BIA), seen the director of Urban Renewal Planning as a project partner in the heart of the neighbourhood, seen the city bankroll an established arts gallery's foothold, seen a national media franchise bring its 24/7 spotlight to bear on the adjacent blocks, and so on and so on.

James North is hardly an underdog when it comes to tapping into city resources, or hapless when it comes to connecting with people of influence. In fact, that's probably a prime reason that there is still no James North BIA.

Not for a moment suggesting that this bunch have been content to rest on the lucky horseshoe up their collective behind. There has been an abundance of hard work and passion poured into the neighbourhood, and it would be churlish to say that the change is anything but welcome. But only in the laziest of PR cliches is this a neighbourhood fighting against uncommon odds.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted October 11, 2012 at 11:16:49 in reply to Comment 81492

Moreover:

What BIA holds a royal flush of prefab narratives and easy memes (eg. street of immigrants; reform of a Mafia enclave; crime-ridden street saved by the arts; hip millenials seeing worth in the gritty city; next chapter of an historic street; boot-strappy rust belt renaissance; the next Brooklyn/Montreal/Parkdale) predigested for marketing and media ends? What BIA so neatly encapsulates the “creative class” prescriptions of pop economist Richard Florida, whose theories municipal leaders around the world have taken to like crack cocaine? How many BIAs have had a promotional newspaper publish monthly for four years? How many BIAs stage promotional events that draw an audience of thousands a dozen or more times a year, with self-replicating FOMO buzz rippling out through smartphones to the local social media ecosystem? What BIA manages to get its main thoroughfare closed four days a year? What BIA stages a multi-day street festival with national exposure, GO Train service, an iPhone app and an organizer that was shortlisted for management of Hamilton Place? What BIA gets an equivalent volume of press exposure (roughly equal to the total amount given to the city’s 13 officially acknowledged BIAs)? In how many BIAs would the mundane act of opening a store of any description trigger conspicuous media coverage within a month of ribbon-cutting? How many BIAs benefit from the multi-million public resuscitation of a long-dormant heritage building, and the benevolent attention of the city's tourism department resident therein? How many have a free tourist shuttle roll through during every hour of daylight during summer months? How many have a CBC outlet embedded in their midst? And how many benefit from the presence of a businessperson who also serves as Chair of the Hamilton Club (the city’s elite private club, whose members are regional leaders in politics, business, law, healthcare, technology, education and culture)?

It is frankly difficult to imagine another neighbourhood advocacy group in the Hamilton CMA that brings a more unified focus, more highly evolved media strategies, more harmonious political allegiances or more consistent community engagement to the task of neighbourhood development. Despite the folktales about an organic, almost accidental renaissance with a big-bang origin in a single storefront, the James North story is in fact an orchestral movement that draws momentum and resources from a diverse set of stakeholders across multiple decades and a spectrum of disciplines. The profile of the neighbourhood reflects JFK’s sentiment that victory has a thousand fathers.

The other half of that quote, of course, is that defeat is an orphan. And while we can and should admire what has transpired on James North, and while City Hall is deeply invested in making that neighbourhood a poster child for the city’s rebranding efforts, the greater success will be in our city’s ability to rejuvenate neighbourhoods that aren’t awash in advantages, communities that haven’t found the golden ticket. Such as Landsdale. Such as Gibson. Such as Kenilworth. Such as Parkdale.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 11, 2012 at 15:00:02 in reply to Comment 81498

If I've learned one thing from the past few years, it's that this city succeeds in spite of city hall, not because of it. The greatest successes of Hamilton have been done by private citizens unaffiliated with council or the municipal government, and the government didn't so much assist as "failed to completely obstruct" the success.

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