(Aug. 5, 2020) New street plazas are popping up in Portland this month as part of the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s (PBOT) Healthy Businesses permit program, which allows for temporary changes to streets to give people more space to conduct business safely during the Covid-19 public health crisis. Beginning today, Portlanders can visit the Kenton Business Association’s street plaza on N Denver Avenue between Schofield and McClellan streets in the heart of the Kenton neighborhood. The two-block street closure will allow for neighbors to shop and dine outdoors at some of their favorite local businesses through Sept. 30.
Since the launch of the Healthy Businesses program just over two months ago, 660 Healthy Business permits have been granted to businesses across the city. All permits are free. Most permits grant usage of the on-street parking spaces adjacent to the business to be used as parking plazas. This alone can allow for an additional 320 square feet of space per business. But a growing number of larger plazas on main streets mean that business associations can welcome the neighborhood with large outdoor dining and shopping spaces. These larger plazas can add approximately 10,000 square feet per block to further accommodate physical distancing to help Portlanders dine and shop while also protecting their health during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Denver Ave Street Plaza will include multiple dining areas for the restaurants along the corridor including Swift & Union, Fino, Derby, Po’Shines Cafe De La Soul and the new restaurant Casa Maya, as well as an art gallery, retail space for neighborhood shops such as Kenton Antiques, The Smith and Gardener, Give & Take Resale, Mantel as well as a flex space for hosting guest vendors, a sanitation station and more. Pro-bono design support for the plaza came from Salazar Architect Inc through Portland State University’s Center for Public Interest Design.
“The Denver Ave Plaza is a critically needed lifeline for businesses that have been absolutely gutted by COVID-related closures,” said Maureen Bachmann, owner of Kenton Antiques and President of the Kenton Business Association. “The opportunity to safely do business in the street plaza will allow us to return to operations for the summer and is the best chance many of us have surviving another winter of reduced access and reduced service. The reality is that without this plaza, 75% of the businesses on N Denver are at risk of closing completely. With this plaza we all have an opportunity to make it through this year, and the long-term benefit to the community is absolutely worth the short-term challenge of a car-free corridor.”
The Kenton Business Association has organized a GoFundMe to support the creation and maintenance of the plaza for the next two months. The plaza will be open daily and operate from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. TriMet’s line 4 bus in Kenton will be temporarily rerouted a block to the south to give local businesses the extra space they need to operate safely. Additional details about the plaza can be found on the Kenton Business Association’s Instagram account @kentonbusinesspdx or on Facebook at @shopkentonpdx.
An additional plaza will have a soft launch this weekend on SE Clinton Street between 25th and 26th avenues. The plaza will open temporarily this weekend, Aug. 8-9, before reopening again on Aug. 15 and remaining open through the end of the Healthy Business permit period on Nov. 1. The Clinton Street Plaza will support neighboring businesses, including Broder Café, La Moule, Dots Cafe, Magna Kusina, Lucky Horseshoe Lounge, Clinton Street Record & Stereo, Annie Meyer Gallery and Gilly’s Salon. To accommodate the street plaza, TriMet’s line 10 bus will also be temporarily rerouted around the one-block street plaza.
“The process for getting our Healthy Business permit was fast, the application was easy (even for a luddite like me) and we’ve had support from PBOT staff all along the way,” said Peter Bro, owner of Broder Cafe on SE Clinton Street. “We are excited to welcome Portlanders to the Clinton Street Plaza and can’t wait for them to safely enjoy all the great food and shops our neighborhood has to offer.”
Since the beginning of the Healthy Businesses program, PBOT has approved over a dozen street closures to accommodate plazas. Most of these closures are for plazas on side streets off busy streets. All street closures are required to keep space clear for emergency vehicle access. View a map of all Healthy Business permits at https://www.portland.gov/external/map-healthy-businesses-permits-and-slow-streets-advisory-signs.
Learn more about the Healthy Businesses permit program at https://www.portland.gov/transportation/safestreetspdx/what-healthy-businesses-permit.