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2023 Portland Street Plazas Annual Report

Information
A title page reading "Portland Street Plazas 2023 Annual Report".  The PBOT logo is visible in the corner.  The background features and Aerial view of the brightly painted Arleta Triangle Square with many people below.
Each year, PBOT creates an annual report to showcase the development of the Public Street Plaza Program. The 2023 report details plaza usage, visitor perspectives, and outlines opportunities for future growth and programmatic improvements.
On this page

2023 Plaza Highlights

  • New plazas: There are 18 plazas total, including the addition of 2 new plazas (Pod Plaza and Outer Space Plaza).
  • Events: Over 236 events were held in the plazas. The introduction of the Small Plaza Activation application lowered barriers for communities to organize and host events.
  • Partnerships: New partnerships formed with MusicPortland for live music and Ground Score Association for trash pickup. 
  • Signage: The addition of new signage improved wayfinding, sense of belonging, and program awareness.
  • Street paintings: 7 street paintings were installed in collaboration with community partners. 
  • Survey results: 89% of respondents felt that plazas contributed to a safe and vibrant area with 90% believing they should remain open beyond 2023.

Background

A black and white historical photo of St Johns Plaza.  A crowd of people pose in front of the plaza near the St Johns Clock to celebrate its opening.
Opening of St. Johns Plaza, 1978. Photo courtesy of the St. Johns Boosters.

History of the Public Street Plaza Program

Plazas have a long and rich history in Portland. Early plazas like the St. Johns Plaza (1978) and Pioneer Square (1984) are still thriving today. Fast forward to the COVID-19 pandemic, Portlanders relied on gathering outdoors. The demand for safe and vibrant public spaces increased. Managing over 20% of Portland's land area in roadways, PBOT was in a unique position to contribute to this demand through the re-envisioning of city streets as spaces for people. 

A crowd of smiling people dance after dark at St Johns Plaza
After 44 years, St. Johns Plaza continues to serve as a lively community hub. Photo courtesy of Dance United.

Starting in 2020, as a response to COVID-19, PBOT built partnerships with communities and local businesses to transform selected streets into public spaces for music, cultural events, street fairs, pop-up markets, and more. In 2022, PBOT’s Street Plazas team began turning the temporary, pandemic-era initiative into a permanent program. The program used PBOT's Livable Streets Strategy, adopted by Portland City Council in 2017, as its roadmap to create inclusive spaces that foster public life. The Public Street Plaza Program has since provided PBOT the opportunity to act on its values around climate action, mobility for all, and building community.


Plaza Elements

Plazas are a unique public asset to the city streetscape. Unlike many roadways in the US, street plazas work to build a sense of place and belonging. They are spaces where people can gather over shared experiences: to socialize, play, eat, drink, and recreate.

A concept drawing of a plaza, complete with seating, planters, a street painting and people.  The icons on the right highlight food trucks, events, stages, markets, shade features, commercial seating, public seating, planters, and art as being core elements of Street Plazas

Common services and attractions found in plazas include events, stages, markets, shade features, outdoor dining, public seating, planters, bike parking, and street art. Their pop-up nature allows them to be quickly implemented on underutilized Portland streets, serving as a catalyst to strengthen community and business.

Plazas also play a special role in strengthening Portland's transportation network by adding destinations along neighborhood greenways and commercial centers. The creation and maintenance of these spaces has a firm grounding in city policy as outlined in Portland’s 2035 Comprehensive Plan's goals 3.A and 3.E and policies 3.38, 3.4, 4.21, 4.26, 8.44, 9.13, 9.14, and 9.15.

a crowd gather on NW 13th Ave.  People are sitting at picnic tables, walking, buying icecream from a Ben & Jerry's food truck.  There are pop-up tents and umbrellas to provide shade.
NW 13th Ave is a popular pop-up plaza under the Public Street Plaza Program. Many elements of a plaza such as food carts, public seating, and markets are visible.

Street Paintings in the Plazas

Two children participating in street painting.
Two budding artists help paint roses on the street in Ankeny Alley.

Large street paintings in the plazas play a key role in creating a sense of place and reflecting local character of the neighborhood.  In 2023, the Public Street Plaza Program undertook seven large-scale street paintings:

  • Ankeny Alley area:  A myriad of roses and rainbows were added to the streets and sidewalks around the Ankeny Alley Plaza, extending up SW Ankeny from SW 2nd Ave to SW 5th Ave.   The painting also included six new painted curb extensions on 3rd Avenue to improve pedestrian safety.
  • Ankeny Rainbow Road: The iconic rainbow stripes were refreshed in 2023.
  • Arleta Triangle Square: Neighbor volunteers came together for a summer work party to repaint the street mural and stage located in this community focused plaza.
  • Cart Blocks: The large floral street painting was refreshed this summer.
  • Dream Street Plaza: A new street painting, designed by artist Edmund Holmes and coordinated by the Soul District Business Association, was installed this summer.  The design was based on a series of posters created by Holmes for a series of events that took place in the plaza through the summer.
  • Montavilla Plaza:  This plaza has been repainted with bright green paint and geographic details based on neighborhood feedback. 
  • Pride Plaza: This plaza and surrounding areas received an entirely fresh painting design.  The new design provides full coverage of the street and is a series of stripes in the colors of the Progress Pride Flag. 

Where are PBOT Public Street Plazas?

Not all parts of Portland are suitable for street plazas. Plazas fare best in dense, walkable urban spaces near main streets and commercial areas. Auto-oriented areas and major transportation routes in Portland tend to be less suitable for plaza uses. Portland’s 2035 Comprehensive Plan identifies neighborhood “centers” where population and mixed use activity is high. These are the most suitable areas for street plaza development. PBOT will continue to work with the community to explore plaza partnerships and opportunities in these centers. To view Portland’s code regarding these distinct centers, see the Comprehensive plan’s Policy 3.1, Urban Design Framework.

A map of Portland featuring the 17 street plazas across the city

This year PBOT developed a new map that can be found both on the program's website and installed as signage within plazas across Portland.


Powerful New Partnerships in 2023

Stewarding PBOT’s plazas is a highly collaborative pursuit. The Public Street Plaza Program works closely with local businesses, community groups, city bureaus, and non-profits.  These relationships are at the heart of PBOT's community centered work.

MusicPortland:

Two people are playing guitars along Ankney Rainbow Road on a beautiful blue sky day.  A large carpet is set out as a stage.
Ankeny Rainbow Road was one of the Plazas selected for the MusicPortland partnership.

Live music is one of the best ways to create a fun and inviting environment, drawing people to the plazas. This year PBOT began a partnership with MusicPortland, bringing live and local music to Ankeny Rainbow Road, Cart Blocks, Main Street, and Pride Plazas. In its pilot year MusicPortland hosted 36 different live music performances from July through September. This small-scale pilot has been a success and PBOT will seek funding for a larger-scale music program in 2024. 

In addition to this partnership many other organizations have brought music to the plazas this year:

Ground Score Association:

A Ground Score employee is photographed on the job with his dog.

This year, PBOT began an exciting collaboration with the Ground Score Association, an organization sponsored by the non-profit Trash for Peace. Ground Score is dedicated to maintaining the cleanliness of streets across Portland. The program prioritizes hiring those facing houselessness and housing insecurity, offering accessible low-barrier employment. PBOT is proud to support a values driven organization like Ground Score that provides livable wages starting at $20 per hour. 

"In addition to moving literal tons of pounds of trash off the streets each day, diverting as much recycling and hazardous materials from the landfill as we can, a survey of workers shows that 80% of those who've come to us unhoused are living indoors within a year and in many cases have begun treatment programs.  We've seen how hard work and the willingness to do it can improve the lives of workers and the communities that surround them.”

-Nic Boehm, Co-Executive Director of Ground Score Association'

You can read more about Ground Score in our December Newsletter.

Strengthening Ongoing Partnerships

Throughout 2023 the Public Street Plaza Program has continued to strengthen and work with all our partners including:


Publicly Loved Programming 2023

Through partnerships, the Public Street Plaza Program has continued to build upon the programming successes from last year. In 2023, PBOT helped bring even more free, all-ages activities and events to these spaces, fostering a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere for all Portlanders to enjoy.

DJ Prashant is pictured, DJing with his hands up in celebration, facing a crowd of dancers in St Johns Plaza
A Dance United Block Party at St. Johns Plaza. The non-profit, led by DJ Prashant, uses music & dance as a medium to celebrate the lives of immigrants, the BIPOC community, and people everywhere. Photo courtesy of Dance United.

PBOT recorded over 236 programmed events at plazas around Portland. These events included a wide array of programs such as farmers markets, knitting days, movie nights, game nights, and musical performances. This does not include the countless informal gatherings, dog meetups, downtown tours, and club meetings the plaza team encountered during site observations. This year the Small Plaza Activation Application was created to remove barriers and streamline small-scale neighborhood-based activities that build social and community connections in PBOT plazas. For larger, ticketed, or alcohol serving events, a Community Event Permit is also available.

See the Plaza Snapshots section for spotlighted events. 


Community Survey Data

A decal on a side walk which reads "welcome to a Portland Street Plaza!  Let us know what you think with our quick survey".
Sidewalk stickers provide info on how to participate in the Public Street Plaza Survey.

In August 2023, PBOT released a short text-based survey to plaza goers. The goal of this survey was to gauge visitors’ sense of community, safety, accessibility, and comfort while in public street plazas.

Did plazas and businesses operating outdoors contribute to an area that felt safe and vibrant?

  • 89% of respondents said yes
  • 8% said no
  • 3% were unsure

Were you able to move safely on the sidewalk or street near outdoor plazas, without obstructions or tripping hazards?

  • 91% said yes
  • 8% said no
  • 1% were unsure

Did you feel comfortable using the plaza with or without spending money in an adjacent business?

  • 79% said yes
  • 13% said no
  • 8% were unsure

Strategies to consider for increasing levels of comfort for non-business usage include:

  • Increasing public seating
  • Improving signage to indicate public seating
  • Increasing public event programming

Looking beyond 2023, do you believe that street space should remain open for public plaza use?

  • 90% said yes
  • 8% said no
  • 2% were unsure

Plaza Snapshots

The following plaza profiles provide a brief overview of the PBOT owned public street plazas evaluated in 2023.

Ankeny Alley

A black family strolls down Ankeny Alley on a sunny day.  The mother carries a bouquet of flowers.

Ankeny Alley is located on SW Ankeny Street, between SW 2nd and 3rd Avenues. This downtown plaza is supported by the Ankeny Alley Association, a group of 30 businesses centered around the block.

The plaza was created as a formal PBOT plaza in 2016 following a successful community designed demonstration project by the organization Better Block in 2014. The plaza features both commercial and public seating and an integrated BIKETOWN station. This space is an iconic part of Portland’s downtown, hosting many tourists grabbing a snack at Voodoo Donuts and special events like the annual SantaCon celebration. On weekends one might find makers markets supporting local vendors. Site observations found Ankeny Alley typically sees the most activity on mornings and weekends.

Highlights

  • Events: 22
  • Amenities: commercial seating, public seating, bike parking, BIKETOWN station, street art, planters, shade features, events, and markets
  • Street painting extension 

What community partners are saying:

Abstract red roses are painted along the street.  In the background, a woman stands on a ladder while painting a mural with the word Portland in red on a blue background.

"We've found the plaza to be instrumental to gathering guests interested in visiting Portland's downtown. The six festivals we held this year attracted over 65,000 guests and garnered unprecedented media support with reporters saying we are changing downtown for the better. Our first festival, held in June, coincided with the new roses PBOT painted through the alley. We appreciate PBOT Street Plaza team's commitment to activating the space when we wanted." 

-Joshua Ryan, Ankeny Alley Association Event Manager


Ankeny Rainbow Road

Alt Text: An image is shown of Ankeny Rainbow Road Plaza with 3 visitors and one dog in the foreground. Two bikers ride by in the background.

Ankeny Rainbow Road is located on SE Ankeny Street between SE 27th and 28th Avenues. The site supports businesses such as Crema, Ankeny Tap & Table, and Gorges Brewing. The site additionally serves as a car-free block along the Ankeny Street Neighborhood Greenway, supporting a safer biking environment.  In 2023 PBOT transitioned Ankeny Rainbow Road from a Healthy Business space to a Public Street Plaza.  With this transition came a new public seating area for anyone to enjoy. This year additionally saw a street painting expansion that brought color to the plaza from curb to curb.

Among other events, Ankeny Rainbow Road proudly hosts the cherished "Bike Happy Hour", which started this year. This weekly event, held Wednesday evenings, brings together cycling enthusiasts and community members in a celebration of urban cycling culture.

Furthermore, in partnership with MusicPortland, Ankeny Rainbow Road has become a hub for musical experiences. This collaboration underscores PBOT's commitment to fostering community engagement and cultural vibrancy through innovative urban spaces.

Highlights

  • Events: 44
  • Amenities: public seating, commercial seating, bike parking, street art, planters, and events.
  • Street painting extension

Arleta Triangle Square

An Aerial view of the brightly painted Arleta Triangle Square Plaza.  Many people, trees, planters, and benches are visible below.
Arleta Triangle Square is a unique neighborhood led plaza. Photo courtesy of the Mt. Scott-Arleta Neighborhood Association.

Arleta Triangle Square is located in the slip lane of SE 72nd and Woodstock Avenues and is supported by the Mt Scott-Arleta Neighborhood Association. The plaza is unique in its primarily residential location. Arleta Triangle Square was created as a safe space to connect with neighbors and friends in response to gunfire and traffic violence.  Today, the community refers to it as the neighborhood's "public living room". 

The site features public seating and a stage. It is a community driven shared space for events, gatherings, public forums, celebration, and relaxation. This year, the community held over half a dozen pop-up markets, offering 100 vendors a platform to showcase their craft and arts. The neighborhood association reports over 1,000 volunteer hours have gone into activating this beloved public space.

Highlights

  • Events: 27
  • Amenities: street mural, public seating, bike parking, events, markets, and planters

What community partners are saying:

Vendors sit under a pop up tent at Arleta Triangle Square.  The vendors are selling a variety of crafts.  The pavement is colorfully painted with rainbow stripes

"The space has seen performances, including a dance troupe fundraising for women’s shelters, raising awareness of domestic violence, and empowering women youth and adults through performance and artistic expression. A children’s theater troupe led by women of color is currently organizing for the upcoming year. Today the Neighborhood Emergency Team is practicing a city-wide response drill as local neighbors are always the first response to community crisis. 

All ofthis would not be possible without support from government through programs such as the Street Plaza Program at PBOT and the Safe Blocks program with the Community Safety Division. Funding community programs is essential to develop emerging neighborhood centers, address climate change where the urban heat island effect is greatest, foster community safety, support thriving neighborhoods through community-led placemaking, and provide space for emerging artists of color in working-class neighborhoods."

-Matchu William, Chair of the Mt. Scott-Arleta Neighborhood Association


The Cart Blocks

Photo shows people standing in line to order food at Cart Blocks food cart pod downtown, on opening day July 24, 2021.

The Cart Blocks are located on SW Park Avenue between W Burnside and SW Oak Streets and is supported by Friends of the Green Loop. The downtown plaza features Portland’s first food carts in the public right-of-way with public seating available in Ankeny West Park. The Cart Blocks were created as a response to the redevelopment of a downtown surface parking lot that displaced a popular food cart pod. Today around a dozen food carts offer a range of options including: #1 Bento, Kafta House, Hua Li House, El Ñaño Parrilladas South American Grill, Tito’s Burritos, Choi Choi, Beijing House, Villa Angel Taqueria and Rachel & Rose Coffee, Beer & Wine. The Cart Blocks supports local artists with murals from iDEAL PDX, Tekpatl Art, Fairywulf, and a recent addition by Qué Designs that adorns The Cart Block’s SE corner, reflecting the diverse spirit of the community it serves.

This year, the Cart Blocks completed their 3 year pilot program, having extended their permit for another 5 years with the city. Since its inception, the site has seen significant infrastructure improvements including revamped electrical and water systems, direct sewer connections for eco-friendly gray water disposal, and a new fence enhancing the space's appeal and functionality for events. The Cart Blocks is also home to a wide range of programming. The site features a monthly LGBTQ+ Rainbow Market and the "Every Wednesday" events, hosting a mix of community activities including free art classes, yoga lesson, and live music. This year the Cart Blocks were also chosen to host MusicPortland performances.

The space is highly activated. A 2023 Pedestrian Traffic Count from Portland Downtown Clean and Safe found the intersection of NW Park Avenue and W Burnside Street saw 846,300 pedestrians in the month of August alone.  This ranks as the third busiest intersection in the study area.

Highlights

  • Events: 25
  • Amenities: food carts, public seating, bike parking, BIKETOWN station, shade features, street art, and events.

What community partners are saying:

A crowd of pedestrians and people on bikes gather at the central square of the cart blocks.  A red double decker foodcart buss is visible in the background.  Red and Yellow Chinese lanterns hang across the central courtyard.
Photo courtesy of The Cart Blocks and Friends of the Green Loop.

"I am a strong supporter of the plaza program. It is exactly what Portland needs right now to revitalize downtown. I really enjoy working with the PBOT plaza team to do something innovative. it brings activity and vitality to the streets."

“We are so happy to extend our stay at this location and continue this important work. The change that has been brought by the hard work of these cart owners is remarkable and we’re glad to have the City of Portland recognize that with this renewal.”

-Keith Jones, Executive Director of Friends of the Green Loop


Montavilla Plaza

Vendors sell goods at the Montavilla Thursday Farmer's Market at Montavilla plaza.  People on the right sit at picnic tables with shad umbrellas.  A young child rides a bike through the plaza. A green patterned street painting is seen on the asphalt of the plaza space..

Montavilla Plaza is located at SE 79th Avenue and SE Stark Street and is supported by the Montavilla East Tabor Business Association (METBA). This eastside plaza features public seating and a small stage. The space saw frequent activation this summer for weekday farmers market, weekend music performances, movie nights, pop-up markets, as well as a neighborhood tree lighting in the winter.

Highlights

  • Events: 28
  • Amenities: public seating, shade features, bike parking, nearby BIKETOWN station, street mural, plants, events, and markets
  • New street painting

Event Spotlight:  Holiday Tree Lighting at Montavilla Plaza

Three women take a selfie in front of a brightly lit tree at Montavilla Plaza.  A large crowd of people gather in the background.  Pop up tents and Threshold brewing a visible in the far background.
Tree lightings are a great way to activate plazas during the winter months. Photo courtesy of Threshold Brewing.

On Saturday, December 2nd, the Montavilla East Tabor Business Association hosted a holiday tree lighting in partnership with local businesses on the street. Over a hundred people gathered in the plaza on a cold winter evening to see the lighting, drink hot cocoa, listen to live music, and celebrate with the community. Tree lightings are a fantastic way to bring people to the plaza during the winter months.

“Montavilla's year-round Plaza has grown into an essential gathering place for the neighborhood and surrounding business community. The Plaza has been pivotal for re-establishing Montavilla's neighborhood vibrancy in the aftermath of Covid.”

-Sara Szymanski, Threshold Brewing


Montgomery Plaza

A crowd gathers at dusk at Montgomery Plaza.  3 Taiko drums and a cornhole board are visible to the right.  The max light rail passes in the background.
Montgomery Plaza saw a large gathering of people even during the cold and dark winter months. Photo courtesy of Portland State University.

This plaza is located on SW Montgomery Street between SW Broadway Street and SW 6th Avenue and is supported by Portland State University (PSU). Montgomery Plaza was initially established as a pilot month-long pop-up plaza effort led by students in 2019.  The plaza has become so well loved that the Portland State Planning and Sustainability Office is currently exploring options to make the road closure into a permanent plaza space.

The site features public seating and a large street mural designed by Nia Musiba, Naomi Likayi, and Sonia Chavez of the BIPOC student mentorship program, COMMA. Montgomery Plaza has been used for community events and PSU activities throughout the year. Student led activations have included fire pits with s’mores, musical performances, markets, badminton, and llamas! To PSU students, staff, and faculty Montgomery Plaza is a main travel route and space for gathering.

Highlights

  • Events: 39
  • Amenities: public seating, street mural, bike parking, nearby BIKETOWN station, shade features, events, and markets

What community partners are saying:

Two smiling people stand under a pop-up tent between two llamas at Montgomery Street Plaza.
Who knows what you may come across at a Portland Street Plaza! Photo courtesy of PSU.

"The placemaking work at Montgomery Plaza provides an important central focal point on the Portland State University campus. As a well-traversed event and public space, Montgomery Plaza’s central location brings synergy between Urban Plaza and the Park Blocks that brings our downtown Portland campus to life. The activation of this space brings an incredible vitality to PSU that the campus community truly appreciates."

-Daryl Pierson, Director of Planning and Sustainability at PSU


Outer Space Plaza

A plaza in a gravel alleyway.  Bistro tables, seating, and a barrel shaped planter are placed near a wall with street art.

Outer Space became PBOT's newest plaza at end of 2023. This plaza, supported by the adjacent building owners has converted an unused alleyway to a place of refuge along Alberta St. The space invites people to sit, linger, and enjoy the art wall.

Highlights

  • Brand new plaza this year
  • Amenities: public seating, free art wall, nearby bike parking, and shade features.

Pride Plaza

The People’s Bike Library of Portland, a sculpture made from small bikes piled up on pole is surrounded by geometric shapes in rainbow colors.
Business partners on the street report that the bike sculpture has become a popular meeting spot for people having a night out in downtown.

Pride is an integrated bikeway plaza located on a stretch of SW Harvey Milk Street between West Burnside Street and SW 12th Avenue. This site is an LGBTQ+ friendly neighborhood gathering space featuring street art, public seating, community activities, and expanded space for businesses into the street.

This year, Pride was chosen as a site for MusicPortland's performances, bringing vibrancy to the downtown public space. It is not uncommon to see tours pass through to view the bicycle art installation at the northwest edge of the plaza.

Highlights

  • Events: 8
  • Amenities: street mural, art installation, bike parking, BIKETOWN station, commercial seating, planters, and events
  • New street painting

Plaza Spotlight: New Planters at Pride

Planters filled with beautiful new plants line the crosswalk at pride plaza.

This year, PBOT added fresh new planters to pride plaza. These have replaced the old orange and white barricades that once closed off the street.  The Public Street Plaza Program took inspiration from the New York Department of Transportation plaza program, who uses these same planters in their street plazas.  PBOT will be installing these new planters at other plazas including Montavilla and SE Clinton in 2024.

Special thanks goes to Portland Parks and Recreation for maintaining these planters and contributing to the vibrancy on our streets.


Dream Street

Picture of people gathered at the Dream Street Plaza on MLK with vendors, trees, and colorful painting on the ground.

Dream Street is located on the 300 Block of NE Sumner Street, just west of NE Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and is supported by the Soul District Business Association. The site features public seating and is half open to traffic day to day, but closes periodically for community celebrations, markets, and microenterprise events.

Highlights

  • Events: 3
  • Amenities: outdoor seating, street art, bike parking, nearby BIKETOWN station, planters, events, and markets
  • New street painting

Plaza Spotlight: New Street Painting

Image shows a street painting of a whimsical scene of Black musicians playing guitar and dancing.
A new street painting on NE Sumner Street at MLK Jr. Boulevard celebrates Black culture and music.

Dream Street received a new painting this year to celebrate the neighborhood's rich Black history and culture. Artist Edmund Mundo Homes, a multi-disciplinary artist has partnered with Soul District Business Association to bring new life to the plaza. Mundo's message is to “invest in the soul… whether it is mental, physical, financial, you have to invest in it.”


NW 13th Plaza

A large crowd of people walk down NW 13th Avenue during a festival.  A long series of pop-up tents are visisble on both sides of the street.  Brick buildings flank both sides of the plaza.

NW 13th Avenue is a multi-block plaza located between NW Everett and Irving Streets. Supported by the Pearl District Neighborhood Association and the Urban Art Network, this plaza features public outdoor seating, many shops, and restaurants. NW 13th Plaza hosts the First Thursday monthly event, art and makers markets, and dance parties. This year FinAbility, a survivor-led 501(c)(3) nonprofit that financially empowers survivors of domestic abuse, hosted a special domestic violence awareness event in the plaza.

Highlights

  • Events: 8
  • Amenities: markets, events, street art, public seating, commercial seating, bike parking, nearby BIKETWON station, and shade features

Plaza Spotlight: Mechan 42

A robot sculpture in the NW 13th Plaza.
A monumental robot sculpture on its first day of its three months stay in the NW 13th Avenue Plaza.

An exciting robot sculpture was placed at the NW 13th Avenue Plaza at NW Everett Street in partnership with the Winter Light Festival, Tyler FuQua Creations, the Pearl District Neighborhood Association, and Weiden + Kennedy. Mechan 42 by Tyler Fuqua Creations will be on display at the Plaza from December 18, 2023 to March 22, 2024.

The installation is part of the citywide Portland Winter Light Festival, which takes place February 2-10, 2024. The Light Festival believes that public spaces should be incubators for art and creativity and is open to the public for free.  


Pod Plaza

Children lay on the astroturf while parents and other adults sit on the public picnic benches at Pod Plaza.

Pod Plaza, located between W Burnside Street and SW 10th Avenue, became PBOT's first new plaza of the year in May. Originally a slip lane dividing people from the sidewalk and the adjacent Pod sculpture, this plaza has become a space for people to gather, listen to musicians, read a book from Powell's bookstore, or enjoy a burger and shake from the adjacent Shake Shack.

Along a major arterial and with its proximity to the famous Powell's Bookstore, Pod Plaza sees pedestrian traffic consistently throughout the day. A 2023 Pedestrian Traffic Count from Portland Downtown Clean and Safe found the intersection of NW 10th Ave and W Burnside Street saw 1,100,000 pedestrians in the month of August alone. This intersection ranked as the busiest among those sampled in the report's study area.   

Highlights

  • Amenities: public seating, planters, bike parking, nearby BIKETOWN station, Pod sculpture, and artificial turf
  • Adjacent to the famous Pod sculpture

Plaza Spotlight: Pod

Two children hang out at a picnic table at pod plaza in Downtown Portland.  The plaza is lined with astroturf.  The abstract Pod sculpture is visible in the background.

Pod is a contemporary sculpture created in 2002 by American artist Pete Beeman. This impressive 30-foot tall artwork embodies Portland's "infrastructure, energy, and vibrancy". Its design features a stationary tripod base spanning 15 feet in diameter, supporting the structure. Notably interactive and kinetic, the sculpture includes a central pendulum that moves back and forth when interacted with. Pod is a part of the City of Portland and Multnomah County Public Art Collection, managed by the Regional Arts & Culture Council.  You can often find street performers playing underneath The Pod.


SE Clinton Plaza

A biker passes through Clinton Street Plaza.  Pop up tents and seating are visible to the left and right.  Pedestrians in the background stroll through the plaza.
With its location along a major greenway, SE Clinton Plaza see a high level of people biking throughout the day. Photo Courtesy of Peter Broder.

Clinton Street Plaza is located on SE Clinton Street between SE 25th and 26th Avenues and is supported by the Clinton Business Group. This inner-southeast plaza was created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and has since grown into a neighborhood asset. The plaza is a highlight on the Clinton Street Neighborhood Greenway and sees a high level of people biking throughout the day.

The plaza serves many businesses on the block who have expanded with outdoor dining into the street. The plaza includes both commercial and public seating with several planters. Additionally, the Clinton Street Fair is held at this plaza, bringing multiple musicians and other performers to the public space. 

Highlights

  • Events: 2
  • Amenities: public seating, commercial seating, bike parking, nearby BIKETOWN station, planters, and neighborhood greenway route

St. Johns Plaza

A group of children play with hula hoops at St Johns Plaza

St. Johns Plaza is located at the corner of N Lombard Street and N Philadelphia Avenue and is supported by the St. Johns Boosters. The site is a purpose-built plaza that was constructed in 1978. The plaza features public seating, open space, and the historic St. Johns Plaza clocktower. St. Johns Plaza is also home to many community events including weekly game nights, knitting nights, shopping events, community parties, tree lightings, and the St. Johns Parade.

Highlights

  • Events: 30
  • Amenities: public seating, events, markets, shade features, bike parking, BIKETOWN station, historic clocktower, and planters
  • A community led clocktower restoration

Plaza Spotlight: Fall Fling

A woman on the right, standing, sings into a microphone while a man on the left, sitting, plays on guitar at St Johns Plaza.

Fall Fling featured activities for all ages. People danced along to tunes from Portland Standard Time Band, played games, pet mini horses, hula hooped, supported nearby businesses, and participated in a variety of other fall themed activities. The event culminated with the plaza clock dedication. Originally erected in 1978, the plaza clock had fallen into disrepair in recent years and was restored by the boosters.

With the support from Venture Portland and leadership from St. John’s District Manager, Tanya Hartnett, the St. Johns Boosters have been a stellar partner in stewarding this plaza. 


Observation Counts

In August 2023, the Plaza Program conducted observation counts to gauge the usage patterns of various plazas. This study involved systematic observations conducted at four different times of the day: mornings (8 a.m. to 11:59 a.m.), afternoons (12 p.m. to 4:59 p.m.), evenings (5 p.m. to 8 p.m.), and weekends (Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.). Each observation session lasted for 20 minutes. 

During these observations, observers focused on two key variables: the number of people traversing through the plazas and the number of people lingering in these spaces. This approach allowed for a nuanced understanding of both transitory and prolonged use of the plazas.  

It's important to note that these observations were made during regular, non-event periods, providing insights into the passive or everyday use of the plazas. This is in stark contrast to times when events are held, which typically witness a substantial increase in plaza usage, often reaching into the hundreds. This distinction is crucial for understanding the full range of how these public spaces are utilized and appreciated by the community. Additionally, variabilities in weather, hours of operation for nearby businesses, presence of outdoor dining, and other factors can have substantial impact on plaza counts.  More robust counts and observational methods are recommended for 2024.  

People Staying In The Plazas During 20 Minute Observation Periods
PlazaMorningAfternoonEveningWeekendTotal
Ankeny Alley127101241
Ankeny Rainbow Road29282752129
Arleta Square Triangle01001
Cart Blocks1831151680
Dream Street00606
Main Street Plaza41218
Montavilla Plaza11121428
Montgomery Plaza331714
NW 13th Plaza16126741
Pod Plaza464620
Pride Plaza313292873
SE Clinton Plaza20195435128
St Johns Plaza291214

Overall Ankeny Rainbow Road, SE Clinton, and the Cart Blocks saw the most people lingering in the plazas.  Outdoor dining at these locations is a major contributor to people staying.  In contrast Arleta, Dream Street, and Main Street Plaza saw the lowest usage. Though Arleta's passive usage was relatively low during our observation period, 27 events were held in 2023, bringing considerable activation to this community space.

People Passing Through The Plazas During 20 Minute Observation Periods
PlazaMorningAfternoonEveningWeekendTotal
Ankeny Alley10196113213523
Ankeny Rainbow Road25306354172
Arleta Square Triangle524210
Cart Blocks12373743129
Dream Street712121243
Main Street Plaza75351238160
Montavilla Plaza1818133281
Montgomery Plaza63945898313
NW 13th Plaza43819882304
Pod Plaza549075135354
Pride Plaza18387164191
SE Clinton Plaza30343044138
St Johns Plaza10851134
People Passing Through The Plazas by Mode
PlazaWalkingBicyclingMobility AssistedOther Micro-mobility*
Ankeny Alley506813
Ankeny Rainbow Road729820
Arleta Square Triangle8200
Cart Blocks123402
Dream Street40300
Main Street Plaza1441042
Montavilla Plaza81000
Montgomery Plaza301633
NW 13th Plaza2613562
Pod Plaza350301
Pride Plaza16813100
SE Clinton Plaza597522
St Johns Plaza34000
Total21702633317

*Other Micro-Mobility includes scooters, skateboards, and other similar devices.

Data from observation counts show people by-and-large pass through plazas via walking.  Ankeny Alley, Pod Plaza, Montgomery, and NW 13th saw the most people passing through during the counts.  In contrast Dream Street, St. Johns Plaza, Harold P. Kelley, and Arleta Triangle Square saw the least amount during our observation period.

Comparing People Passing Through vs. Staying in the Plazas
PlazaPassingStaying
Ankeny Alley52341
Ankeny Rainbow Road172129
Arleta Square Triangle101
Cart Blocks12980
Dream Street436
Main Street Plaza1608
Montavilla Plaza8128
Montgomery Plaza31314
NW 13th Plaza30441
Pod Plaza35420
Pride Plaza19173
SE Clinton Plaza138128
St Johns Plaza3414

PBOT can consider what strategies may promote staying and lingering in the plazas with amenities such as:

  • Increased public seating
  • Programming and events
  • Shade covering

Key Themes & Takeaways

  • Street plazas can play an important role not only in our transportation system, but also our communities. These spaces are integrated into Portland's transportation network, improving city connectivity for pedestrians and those using forms of active transportation, such as bicycles and scooters.
  • Community collaboration is central to the program, with local input shaping planning and programming. Partnerships with organizations like MusicPortland and Ground Score Association underscore collaborative efforts. These spaces have become increasingly popular for a wide range of events, fostering active participation and engagement.
  • There is significant public support for the plaza initiative. Partners and community members state the initiative positively impacts community life, demonstrating the value of thoughtful human-centric urban planning.
  • The program prioritizes safety and vibrancy, aiming to create inclusive public spaces by offering a range of amenities, catering to diverse needs and interests.

Portland's Public Street Plaza Program represents a transformative initiative, enhancing urban life through the creation of dynamic, inclusive public spaces. These plazas not only serve as vibrant hubs for community engagement and cultural events but also integrate seamlessly into the city's broader transportation and urban landscape. With a focus on collaboration, community-driven programming, and a commitment to sustainability, the program sets a new standard for urban public spaces, fostering a sense of belonging and community pride among Portland residents. This initiative exemplifies how thoughtful urban planning can positively impact city life.

Do you have feedback, partnership ideas, or other questions? Please email the PBOT Public Street Plaza team at PortlandStreetPlazas@Portlandoregon.gov