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Learn about the Play Streets program

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The Portland in the Streets team at the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is piloting a Play Streets program which turns neighborhood streets into pop-up community hubs for intergenerational socializing, play, and physical activity.
A group of children play in a sprinkler in the street on a sunny day.
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What are Play Streets?

A Play Street transforms neighborhood streets into recurring pop-up community hubs for intergenerational socializing, play, and physical activity by closing the street to vehicle traffic. They create a fun, active space, especially in places where recreational areas are scarce. Play Streets are free and open to everyone.  

Play Streets can have snacks and games, but they can also include culturally specific performances, potlucks, or demonstrations for kids like how to patch a bike tire or plant a tree. The possibilities are endless. 

The History of Play Streets in Portland

In 2018, the Portland in the Streets team began to build the Play Streets program. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program was put on hold until the spring of 2023. With PBOT’s Active Transportation and Safety section, Elevate Oregon, and a team of dedicated volunteers, Portland in the Streets launched a six event pilot series in the Parkrose School District. These events included bounce houses, chalk art, basketball games, blocks, snacks, and music. They were well attended and so much fun!  

Our Play Streets program joins a nationwide (and worldwide) movement to create safe space for kids to play in the street. Similar programs operate in cities like New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. 

How do Play Streets happen?  

From November 30th to January 31st, PBOT will be accepting applications from organizations interested in hosting a Play Streets series. Organizations accepted into the program will receive the following resources from PBOT:  

  • A one-time $5,000 funding award, to be used for purchasing of materials, promotion of events, or staffing of events. 

  • Access to PBOT’s new “Park and Play” lending library trailer, complete with large games, canopies, furniture, games, and other supplies for use at their Play Street events. Use of the trailer is free.  

  • Program specific training, to be taken at the time of the organization’s choosing. These trainings will include information on how to create a site plan, rent traffic control devices, notify neighbors, market the event, and day-of coordination details.  

These organizations will then host a Play Street series between the months of April 2024 and December 2024. Play Streets will be happening all over the city! Check back for locations and dates in the spring so you can attend.   

Who should apply to host a Play Street? 

You should apply to host a Play Street if:  

  • You are a community-based non-profit located in Portland (or you are partnering with a non-profit beneficiary). 
  • Your organization can commit to hosting three Play Street events between the months of April 2024 and December 2024. 
  • You serve populations that have limited access to green spaces or recreational spaces.  
  • You are passionate about providing safe places for kids to play! 

How to apply for a Play Streets permit  

The application asks questions about your organization, the neighborhood and population you serve, as well as your plans for your Play Street. The application also details the review process. 

Applications will be accepted from November 30th, 2023, to 11:59 pm on January 31st, 2024. Late submissions will not be considered. Organizations selected to host a Play Street series will be notified in February of 2024.

Please note: you are not expected to know every detail for your event when you apply. It is normal that a few details will be determined after an organization has been accepted into the program. Please do not let a few unknowns prevent you from applying. 

Questions about if you qualify or if your idea for a Play Street event is a good fit? Please email PBOTPlayStreet@portlandoregon.gov and we are happy to help. We look forward to receiving your application. 

FAQ 

Where is the one-time funding award coming from?  

PBOT has available funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). ARPA funds will cover the cost of all the Play Streets programming. To learn more about ARPA, please visit American Rescue Plan: Investing in Portland

Do I need a permit for a Play Street? 

Yes! Since the street will be closed to vehicle traffic, the organizations who are accepted into the program will be coached through the process of getting a permit. Permits are free. 

Do I need insurance to host a Play Street? 

Yes, insurance is required to host events in the public right-of-way. The city requires a certificate of liability insurance and an additional insured endorsement. You can review the rules on the page below:

Insurance and bond requirements for permits in the public right-of-way 

Can I have a dance group perform at my Play Street? 

Sure! We love Play Streets because they are so customizable. Having a dance group perform at your Play Street sounds fun and enriching for the community. Even better, can they host a small lesson to get kids and adults moving and learning? Great!  

What isn’t allowed at a Play Street?  

Because these events are in public spaces, you cannot prevent people from attending or walking through the Play Street. Alcohol consumption is not allowed. To create a friendly and welcoming environment for children of all ages, we strongly encourage that all Play Streets be smoke-free. Vendors are not allowed at Play Streets.  

What if I missed the application window but want to host a Play Street? 

Please email PBOTPlayStreet@portlandoregon.gov if you missed the application window. We are happy to discuss options. 

To keep up to date on program changes, or to learn about other Portland in the Streets programs:

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