Why now and why streetcar?

Rendering looking toward Montgomery Park with streetcar and new mixed use buildings
The Montgomery Park Area Plan (MPAP) outlines a new land use vision for the area between NW Vaughn and NW Nicolai west of Highway 30, with proposed Comprehensive Plan Map, Zoning Map, Zoning Code, and Transportation System Plan changes.
On this page

Why plan here now?

The MPAP geography includes the area bounded by NW Nicolai St to the north, NW Vaughn to the south, and Highway 30 to the east, as well as the historic Montgomery Park building. 

Area east of Montgomery Park showing vacant industrial land
The former ESCO site (foreground) adjacent to Montgomery Park (background) is primarily vacant and is a redevelopment opportunity.

Initial analysis from the MP2H Study found that shifting work trends and large vacant or underutilized sites present an opportunity to re-envision much of the area as a more intensely developed mixed-use and transit-oriented district near the Central City. At the same time, the opportunity for development of affordable housing and employment space near the Central City and the thriving Northwest District connected by a high-quality transit investment supports key City policies around equity, housing needs, carbon reduction, and climate resilience.

The plan area is located on the southern end of Guild’s Lake Industrial Sanctuary, serving as a transition between the industrial uses to the north and the Northwest District to the south. Located south of NW Vaughn St, the Northwest District is the city’s densest urban neighborhood, offering a range of important services and community and cultural resources, including parks, shops and grocery stores, theatres, Portland Streetcar, public schools and a hospital.

The significant industrial employment area of the Guild’s Lake Industrial District north of NW Nicolai St includes businesses that support the local economy and provide low-barrier-to-entry, diverse and living-wage jobs. Beyond the boundaries of the industrial district are the Willamette River to the north and east and Forest Park to the west, both important natural features offering recreational opportunities to residents, workers, and visitors.

The plan area contains two large opportunity sites with significant redevelopment potential. 

  1. The Montgomery Park property, comprising the historic Montgomery Park office building and the historic American Can Company Complex; and. 
  2. The former ESCO Steel site to the east of Montgomery Park, roughly between NW 24th and NW 26th avenues. Previously an active steel foundry, the ESCO site is now largely vacant.

Overall, the plan area has the potential for future employment and housing opportunities, as well as supporting other community benefits. It’s centralized location and proximity to existing services and transit also provide future workers and residents with more transportation options to complete daily tasks, as well as reduce their miles driven. The location also supports growth in neighborhoods immediately surrounding the Central City, in accordance with the 2035 Comprehensive Plan, helping to leverage investments and reduce the need for future expansions of the urban growth boundary.

The MPAP represents a key decision point with long-term implications. Should the area continue as a low-intensity industrial/employment center, one that can potentially provide low-barrier-to-entry jobs for many community members? Or should the area transform into a higher density, transit-served, mixed-use area with industrial, retail and office employment opportunities, as well as substantial housing opportunities, including affordable housing and other public benefits that would not otherwise be realized?

Potential futures for the study area

The proposed MPAP could provide thousands of new jobs and housing units in a transit-oriented setting served by an extension of Portland Streetcar:

Drawing of possible development in NW Portland west of Hwy 30
Lower density employment-oriented development allowed by existing plans and zoning.
Diagram showing mix of building types from aerial view of Montgomery Park area
Intense mix of employment, housing and commercial development allowed by the proposed plan.

Why streetcar?

The Portland Streetcar, owned by the City of Portland and operated by TriMet, was established in 2000 as the first modern streetcar system in the U.S. 

  • Streetcar provides the climate benefits of clean, green transportation and helps create sustainable, dense, mixed-use neighborhoods. 

Since its inception, the streetcar has been coupled with development agreements and planning processes that create high-density mixed income housing. 

  • More than one third of Portland’s affordable housing units are near the existing streetcar, and the majority of streetcar trips serve those who live and work close to it.

Continued expansion of streetcar is part of the city and regional growth, climate and transportation plans. 

  • Streetcar leverages federal, local property owner, and other targeted resources for construction and operation, which minimizes competition with other projects for limited funding.

Read more about Portland Streetcar ridership.

Learn more about the MPAP Proposed Draft