Community input sought for the future character of Macadam Avenue Area

News Article
City planners and community members consider the design of the built environment on and around South Portland’s major thoroughfare.
Aerial views of the Macadam area circa 1950 and current day.
Aerial views of the Macadam area circa 1950 (left) and current day (right) illustrate the changes in building type, use, and density within the district. Updating the area’s design guidelines will help to ensure projects reflect current conditions, while also addressing future goals and aspirations.

Portland's newest "quadrant," South Portland is seeing new growth and change in building types and uses. This is particularly true within the Macadam area, where S Macadam Avenue’s urban design “character” (look and feel) is changing as new mixed-use buildings pop up along the four-lane boulevard. But many of the older design elements date back to the 1980s.

With the River Plan / South Reach Project well underway to update policies, actions, and regulations for this unique part of the Portland, it’s a good time to refresh the design guidelines for the area as well.

The River Plan / South Reach Proposed Draft recommends repealing the Macadam Corridor Design Guidelines (1985) and instead applying the still draft Design Overlay Zone Amendment (DOZA) Citywide Design Guidelines in the Macadam Area:

The draft Macadam Character Statement is designed to guide future development in the Macadam Area (south of South Waterfront), including the riverfront.

Tell us what you think: What makes the Macadam Avenue district special?

Project staff developed the latest draft of the Macadam Character Statement based on public testimony received on the River Plan / South Reach Proposed Draft (January 2020). They presented the draft statement to the Planning and Sustainability Commission on May 12. Staff had planned additional opportunities to gather more public input on the character statement, but those were interrupted by Covid-19.

Given the limitations placed on community engagement due to the stay-at-home orders, City planners are seeking additional feedback through an online survey and an upcoming Macadam Character Statement Q&A session. We want to hear from you on what works, what needs improvement or what may be missing in this draft character statement. We also want to hear more from you about what makes this place special!

Williamette Greenway trail on left; dressed up statue of a beaver on right.
With nearly 2 miles of riverfront views and access to the Williamette Greenway trail (left), Macadam is a unique area. It is also home to some beloved landmarks and quirky traditions, like dressing up the beaver statue at Heron Point Wetlands (right).

The Macadam Character Statement will inform the design of new and remodeled buildings in the area for years to come. So we want to make sure it reflects the history, unique features and places of the area as well as the aspirations of the people who live, work and play there.

Staff will present the draft Macadam Character Statement to the Portland Design Commission at a public hearing on July 16. Written comments received before the hearing will inform a staff memo and the presentation with recommendations to the commission. Oral testimony submitted on July 16 will also help shape the statement that will be included within the Citywide Design Guidelines.

What is a character statement and how is it used?

Character statements supplement Portland’s Citywide Design Guidelines for each designated town center and neighborhood center. They provide more specific (and customized) context within the guidelines. The statements follow a template, structured to align with and support, Guideline 02, Build on the Character and Local Identity of the Place. They address community and architectural character, historical context, as well as natural resources particular to the specific area.

The character statement does not provide an in-depth list of attributes and best practices, which are redundant or conflict with the Citywide Design Guidelines. Instead, the Citywide Design Guidelines provide best practices for development projects; the character statement specifies where, and how, to apply these best practices within the Macadam area to achieve future desired design outcomes.