Portland Officials Unveil Plan to Turn City Streets Into Temporary Outdoor Commercial Plazas

In areas where there is high demand for space, entire roads may be closed to traffic and transformed into promenades for shopping and dining.

Pizzaria sul Lago in downtown Lake Oswego. (Alex Wittwer)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has released details of a plan to convert neighborhood streets into temporary outdoor plazas as Portland prepares to reopen from COVID-19 shutdowns.

As part of a plan championed by Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, local businesses can apply to use the sidewalks and parking spaces outside their storefronts as dining and shopping areas.

The move will allow bars, restaurants and retail shops to begin serving the public again while maintaining proper social distancing for customers.

"Portland started with 100 miles of slow streets on our Neighborhood Greenways, closing them to through traffic to create more space for pedestrians and cyclists," Eudaly said in a press release. "Our next phase is working with our local business community to support their reopening and reimagine public space."

Related: Here's Where Portland Will Install Barrels to Limit Car Traffic and Let People Walk in the Road.

Interested businesses are asked to fill out an online application for a Healthy Business permit. In areas where there is high demand for space, entire roads may be closed to traffic and transformed into promenades. PBOT is encouraging businesses in heavy commercial districts to coordinate their requests.

Applicants will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. In determining who receives a permit, PBOT will "balance the needs of businesses with traffic safety, pedestrian access, public transit, and emergency response needs," according to the press release. The permits will be valid through Oct. 1.

As previously reported by WW, a resident in Southeast Portland has been campaigning to close several blocks of Northeast and Southeast 28th Avenue in Kerns, and Southeast Belmont Street in Sunnyside to allow shopping and dining in the streets.

Multiple businesses along those streets have voiced support for the idea, as well as the Kerns Neighborhood Association, on the condition that businesses institute a 10 pm curfew.

Related: Two Southeast Portland Neighborhoods Plan to Turn Their Main Streets Into Dining Plazas.

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