News Release: New Car-Free Plaza in Old Town Helps Energize the Downtown Neighborhood

Press Release
Couch Street Plaza, the newest addition to PBOT’s Public Street Plazas program, will host numerous special events this summer and beyond
A large group of people gather in the Couch Street Plaza next to small business vendors and public picnic tables beneath the iconic "Hung Far Low" sign in Old Town, Portland. Photo by @giannapbasile.
A large group of people gather in the Couch Street Plaza next to small business vendors and public picnic tables beneath the iconic "Hung Far Low" sign in Old Town, Portland. Photo by @giannapbasile.

(July 25, 2022) – A block in the heart of Northwest Portland’s Old Town neighborhood has been transformed into a welcoming, car-free public event space through a partnership between the Old Town Community Association (OTCA) and the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT). The Couch Street Plaza is the newest addition to PBOT’s popular Portland Public Street Plazas program, which is dedicated to creating community-oriented public spaces throughout the city.

“Our vision for Old Town is to create a space that is safe, clean and accessible. We believe that combining this public plaza space with thoughtful and diverse event programming is one of the many ways that we can start to come together again as a community,” said Jessie Burke, OTCA chair and co-owner of The Society Hotel. “Old Town businesses are busier than ever, with hotel occupancy on the rise and restaurants open seven days a week, and the Couch Street Plaza is just one more amazing reason for people to come visit.”

“Portland’s streets are for people. It is wonderful to see our public right-of-way being used to support small businesses, musicians, and the performing arts at the new Couch Street Plaza,” said Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty. “I encourage everyone to visit and support the Old Town community and their beautiful new public space.”

Located on NW Couch between NW 3rd and NW 4th Avenues, Couch Street Plaza is encircled by a number of popular Old Town businesses, including The Window and Dixie Tavern, and just two blocks from Lan Su Chinese Garden. The plaza includes picnic tables that invite people to gather, relax and dine al fresco as they explore Old Town—known as one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Portland.

Couch Street Plaza is also next to the historic Tuck Lung Gallery, a space generously donated to OTCA by Guardian Real Estate that hosts rotating art exhibitions, retail pop-ups, and other community-centered events and meetings. OTCA has planned numerous public events that make use of both the Couch Street Plaza and the Tuck Lung Gallery. Upcoming events include:

  • July 31 (1-8 p.m.) - Chinatown Meet Vol. 3. Hosted by CP Jury and OTCA and featuring local DJs, your favorite streetwear brands and some surprise food pop-ups! Located at Tuck Lung Gallery, 140 NW 4th Ave., with vendors along NW 4th Avenue outside the gallery, and a daytime party featuring DJs at Couch Street Plaza.
  • August 13 (11 a.m.-10 p.m.) - West Coast Block Party. End-of-summer block party celebrating the Old Town community and businesses.
  • August 27 (2-8 p.m.) - Roots Before Leaves. Friendly dance battle competition showcasing all styles of dance.

See a full list of upcoming events in Old Town.

The Public Street Plazas program was originally developed in response to COVID-19 and builds on PBOT’s Healthy Businesses permit program, where PBOT and community partners work together to repurpose streets for public space for business and community uses. As temporary spaces, most street plazas include simple design elements and temporary, movable amenities. Street plazas have been embraced by communities as outdoor spaces to socialize, share a coffee or a meal, enjoy music, or simply sit and relax with others. In March 2022, Commissioner Hardesty directed PBOT to make Public Street Plazas a permanent part of the bureau’s programming.

There are currently 10 public plazas throughout Portland, including Old Town’s Couch Street Plaza. Other nearby plazas include the Pride Plaza, located on SW Harvey Milk Street between W Burnside Street and SW 12th Avenue, which features public seating, street art, and expanded space performances and community events, and the Cart Blocks, located on SW Park between West Burnside and SW Oak Street, which features delicious food carts, public seating in Ankeny West park and community events and activities all summer long. View a directory of Portland’s Public Street Plazas.

About Old Town Community Association Old Town Community Association (OTCA) is an Oregon 501c3 charitable organization and the official neighborhood community association as determined by the Portland Office of Community & Civic Life. It was founded in 2012 to educate, promote and advocate for the Old Town neighborhood. Bound by Broadway Avenue to the west, the Willamette River to the east, the Broadway Bridge to the north, and snaking through various streets as far south as Harvey Milk Street, Old Town is a vibrant, resilient, 24-hour neighborhood rooted in a richly diverse historical past. Website, @oldtownpdx

About Portland Bureau of Transportation The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is the steward of the City’s transportation system, and a community partner in shaping a livable city. We plan, build, manage and maintain an effective and safe transportation system that provides access and mobility. Learn more.