UPDATE: May 7, 7:33 pm
Despite taking mostly criticism from Old Town residents, restaurants and businesses Tuesday night at a community meeting at the Bud Clark Commons, Mayor Charlie Hales remains committed to continuing weekend street closures in the six-block Entertainment District for another six months.
Hales said that managing the Entertainment District will ultimately have to be done by someone besides the Portland Police Bureau, who had initially suggested the street closures. The mayor floated the idea of creating a nonprofit organization to manage the area. The 6-month pilot project, says Hales, will give him time to to create a plan to fund the nonprofit; he mentioned a tax on area bars and businesses as one possible way to do this.
Neighbors and businesses, however, say that creating what Hales called a "street festival" will only perpetuate the party atmosphere that has been causing problems in the neighborhood.
Hales says that the private sector has made the area what it is, not the city of Portland. "I don't think we get to make it go away," Hales told the group. "The question is whether management is better than what was here before."
A man who said he lives in sober housing in Old Town said that neither solution does much for him. "People are trying to get their lives together," he said, "and you're throwing this crap in our faces."
The City Council will vote on Hales' proposed 6-month extension of the Entertainment District street closures on May 22 at 2 pm.
Original story, May 7, 5:46 pm:
Mayor Charlie Hales wants to keep the streets in Old Town closed on weekend nights and holidays, his office confirms.
Hales is meeting with a group of bar owners, neighborhood activists, residents and businesses tonight at the Bud Clark Commons to discuss his proposals for the newly-created Entertainment District.
Based on recommendations from Portland police, the city has since December closed off six blocks of streets to vehicles near the city's most densely populated cluster of bars and clubs, from 10 pm to 3 am Fridays, Saturdays and drinking holidays.
The project has largely been a success, Hales has said, cutting down on booze-fueled fights and curbing worries about pedestrians being hit.
The city started the closures under former Mayor Sam Adams, but Hales is clearly also a fan of the project. He used an executive order to extend the 90-day trial period, set end in April, to the end of this month. Now, mayoral spokesman Dana Haynes says, Hales will ask the City Council on May 22 to extend the closures another six months, as a pilot project to make it permanent.
But not everyone loves the party atmosphere. Restaurants say they're losing customers, who are towed if they remained parked in the Entertainment District after its shut down to traffic. Neighbors have also complained the district is just pushing the problems outside the six block closure and that it does nothing to eliminate noise.
To fix those issues, Haynes says Hales would like to see if the City Council would approve forming a nonprofit to tackle neighborhood livability issues.
"We're at the stage of the mayor thinks it's a good idea, but hasn't gone to the City Council to see if he's got votes on it," Haynes says.