About the "town center"

Mock up of possible West Portland Town Center showing people on sidewalk, businesses and housing with cars on a road surrounded by green spaces.
Defining the town center, a town center plan, and why we are planning for West Portland Town Center now.
On this page

What is a town center?

The City of Portland defines “town centers” as large hubs, providing housing and jobs as population and employment opportunities grow. Town centers (think Hollywood or St Johns) provide a full range of commercial and community services, high-density housing, as well as mid-rise commercial and mixed use buildings. They are usually served by high-capacity transit (light rail or frequent service buses), include a robust employment sector, and provide enough housing for residents to support a full service business district in the center.

What is a town center plan?

A town center “plan” is a long-range guiding document (think 10 to 50+ years into the future) for a town center area. This kind of plan helps the City and private parties make decisions about investments and ways to support the future growth and vitality of a town center area. The plan considers existing conditions and challenges in the area, as well as the community’s aspirations and needs. It also shows where and how the town center will change and grow over time, and adopts or directs the laws, programs or investments needed for the future changes discussed in the plan. 

Where is the West Portland Town Center (WPTC)?

This town center is located north and south of the intersection of Barbur Blvd, Capitol Highway and Interstate 5 – also referred to as the “Crossroads.” Other landmarks in the area include the Barbur Transit Center and Barbur World Foods. The study area roughly encompasses between SW Dolph (north), SW 35th (east), SW 53rd (west) and SW Pomona (south).  

Preview image of the West Portland Town Center study area map with a pullout and image of "The Crossroads" which is the intersection of Barbur Blvd., Capitol Highway and I-5 and an image of the exterior of Barbur World Foods grocery store.
Preview of the designated West Portland Town Center area. View the WPTC Draft Study Area map (PDF) linked below for more details.

View a map of the WPTC Plan study area:

Why a plan for the West Portland Town Center now? 

West Portland Town Center is one of the few town centers in Portland without a land use plan. It is one of only two town centers in SW Portland, Hillsdale Town Center being the other one. It was designated as a town center in 1995, and the designation was reaffirmed in the City’s 2035 Comprehensive Plan process in 2016. 

In the coming years, many more people and businesses are expected in SW Portland. The West Portland area has the makings of a dynamic, multicultural, amenity-rich town center. Today it provides residents and employees with access to good schools, from primary schools to colleges; well-paying jobs like those at OHSU and in Washington County; and great open spaces, such as Woods Memorial Park and Spring Garden Park. 

It’s a good time to plan for the improvements and benefits the community would like to see with this expected growth and change – with or without light rail in the near term. But it’s even more critical to plan now and create options for the area’s vulnerable community members, so they have the choice and resources to stay and build community if desired.