$1.2 million federal grant to make Portland’s street plazas permanent

(KOIN) – Some of downtown Portland’s public street plazas and outdoor dining
areas that were introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to
become permanent.

The Portland Bureau
of Transportation announced Friday that it was awarded $1.2 million from the
U.S. Economic Development Administration to help create 32,000 square feet of
street plazas. The project, PBOT said, is designed to promote tourism and
economic recovery Downtown.

The city sought out
the funding following Transportation Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty’s request to
make these designed spaces permanent installments. The awarded grant was funded
through the American Rescue Plan – a $1.9 trillion rescue
package created to help Americans financially recover from the COVID-19

“During this
pandemic, we learned how important it is to use our outdoor public space for
community members to come together,” Hardesty was quoted as saying in a
press release. “We are so grateful to the Biden Administration and our
Congressional delegation members for this federal support. Last year, I
directed PBOT to make our street plazas and outdoor dining programs permanent.
Plazas like these downtown will help us make Portland a more inclusive,
equitable place, and help grow our small businesses and cultural

Pride Plaza located
at SW 12th Harvey Milk Street, designed to be a “safe space” for
community gatherings, commerce and public art during the pandemic, is among the
installments that will become permanent under the city’s current plans. The
planning and community-involvement phases for Harvey Milk Plaza will start in
early 2023. Construction is anticipated to begin by fall of 2023.

An artist’s
rendering of the revamped South Park Blocks with the proposed Green Loop
multiuse path. | PBOT

The street plaza
project also aims to create active, “green” spaces that will connect
downtown’s Cart Blocks, which houses food carts displaced by the new
35-story Ritz Carlton, with O’Bryant Square Park (currently closed) and the
still-unnamed park referred to as Ankeny Park West, located between SW Park
Ave. and SW 8th Street and W Burnside and SW Ankeny Streets. The changes would
represent the first installment of the city’s Green Loop project. If
completed, the proposed 6-mile long park would create a circular track
of tree-covered pedestrian plazas that connect Portland’s Central City
neighborhoods on the east and west sides of the Willamette River.

Oregon Senator Jeff
Merkley called the awarded funding a win for Portlanders and tourists.

“A strong
recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic includes making community improvements that
will have a lasting impact,” Merkley said. “With these EDA funds from
the American Rescue Plan, Pride Plaza will be constructed, creating dozens of
good-paying jobs as well as creating a safe and usable community space. This
funding to construct this plaza is a win for both locals and visitors