"We planned,
it worked"


Aerial photo of Pioneer Courthouse Square, on the 100% location in Portland - site of a former two-level parking structure slated in the 70s to become a ten-story garage.

I love that Portland implemented its Downtown Plan. It is such a Portland story that all these varied types came together in the early '70s to create a simple, elegant plan, and then, over the last three decades, it has really been carried out. "We planned, it worked" was the tag line from the 25th anniversary celebration of the downtown plan.

Looking down the transit spine from the north. Densities are massed along the spine to give views to the river and hills, and put the most workers next to transit.

The plan grew in part out of the ire in the late 1960s of some ordinary moms who were disgusted with Portland's air pollution. It gained traction with savvy business interests who saw the value of a strong downtown. The simplicity of the plan meant you could draw it on a napkin. It called for building a transit spine running north/south through downtown, developing an east/west retail core, replacing the Harbor Drive freeway with a waterfront park, and bringing housing to downtown for a 24-hour city.

Salmon Springs Fountain in Tom McCall Waterfront Park -- on the site of the old Harbor Drive Freeway.

A key part of the plan to clean up Portland's air was to get people to come downtown by transit. On the left is Morrison Street in downtown in the late 1950s, and the same street in 1986 when the MAX light rail opened.

Downtown housing is key, as are close-in employment opportunities. The large open area near the bottom of the photo at left is the start of South Waterfront development. Below is the tram, built in 2006, that connects the South Waterfront district to Oregon Health Services University, the City's largest employer.