Subtopic : Portland Neighborhoods, 1960s-Present: Renewing the Public Space
Themes: Social Relations, Towns and Cities
Within a downtown whose property owners were receptive to the New Urbanism, public space was reconfigured to appeal to pedestrians. Even the eruption of Mount St. Helens in May 1980, which led hotel managers and bankers to fear a slowdown in tourism and construction, had no effect on redevelopment. By the mid-1980s carefully spaced office towers transformed the downtown. Across from the new Waterfront Park, the Public Market, a landmark of the Depression era, was replaced by Portland General Electric’s Willamette Center. Two blocks to the west a series of parks that included a dramatic walk-through fountain named for Ira Keller, former chairman of the Portland Development Commission, were completed. The Pioneer Courthouse was restored and Pioneer Courthouse Square, intended to be the center of downtown, was built on the former site of a parking structure. Visitors writing in national magazines were duly impressed by the landscaping and the retail shopping that reduced the large downtown buildings to human scale. Complementing the focus on the larger urban plan has been coverage in The Architectural Record of impressive new buildings. The most elaborate articles were devoted to Michael Graves’ startling Portland Building, with others covering the nearby Justice Center, Willamette Center, Pioneer Courthouse Square, and townhouse developments in different parts of the city. The new structures, combined with the old, have finally given life to the Olmstead and Bennett plans of an administrative center and entertainment district at the core of downtown.
A survey in a 1989 issue of Newsweek magazine emphasized the convenience of downtown as an entertainment and business center and the arrival of new Japanese electronics firms to create new jobs. Perfection, however, was hardly achievable. By 2000, rapid economic expansion led to a filling-in of unused land, so that rows of townhouses abutted the urban growth boundary. But observers still concluded that despite higher property values and rents as well as pressure from developers to expand the boundary, most residents of the metropolitan area accepted the concept of a growth boundary and were willing to defend it politically.
© William Toll, 2003
Themes: Social Relations,Towns and Cities
Regions: Portland Metropolitan Area
Author: William Toll
The 1980s brought major change to Portland’s cityscape. Public parks, walk-through fountains, and well-spaced office towers added to the city’s accessibility and the mass transit networks that covered both sides of the Willamette River directed visitors into the downtown hub.
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