A downtown food cart pod displaced two years ago by the construction of a Ritz-Carlton hotel is finally opening at a new, city-funded location this Saturday.
In December, WW examined the red tape delaying the debut of a replacement cart pod on Southwest Ankeny Street. The group that tried to relocate the pod, Friends of Green Loop, struggled to get the necessary permits from city bureaus and agencies to reestablish business.
This spring, Mayor Ted Wheeler funded the pod with $269,000 from the city budget—a line item that both Wheeler and Commissioner Mingus Mapps singled out as their favorite use of city dollars this year.
But many of the food carts from the original location were parked in storage for two years, and not all of the businesses survived the long wait.
The new pod, called simply “The Cart Blocks,” is adjacent to the North Park Blocks. Carts will line Southwest Ankeny Street and 8th (aligned sideways) and Park avenues.
The returning carts include Tito’s Burritos, Shanghai’s Best, Anna Thai Basil, Baghdad Iraqi Grill and Emame’s Ethiopian.
The opening of the pod comes at a time when city officials are eager to entice citizens back downtown as some of Portland’s offices, commercial spaces and stores reopen to full capacity. The opening of the pod is part of Portland’s campaign called “Here for Portland.” A list of reopening events kicks off Saturday and includes a sing-along with Pink Martini, dance and fashion performances, and lots of food. (The events start at 1:30 pm.)
Keith Jones, director of Friends of Green Loop, told WW in May, “[Cart owners] are very happy to hear it’s going forward, but none of us are going to be jumping up and down until there are actually carts on the premises.”
Last Friday, Jones watched all the carts drive into their new spots.
Eleven of those, he said, were parked for over two years at the downtown U.S Post Office site. Twenty-one of the 55 original food carts are returning.
On Thursday afternoon, Jones was milling around the park as cart owners set up. He says it’s the first time in two years he’s seen the square not lined with fences.
Though it’s not so big a space as he wanted—he says it had to downsize quite a bit from his initial vision—he says he’s “happy to see the cart owners so happy” and adds that “they are really prideful of this space.”
Earlier this year, the Portland Bureau of Transportation denied Jones’ request to use 8th Avenue for carts because fire trucks couldn’t pass through, but Jones managed to eke out an 8-foot-wide encroachment from PBOT to allow for several carts to line the street sideways.
Just this morning, he says, the city took down the fences surrounding the park and cleaned up graffiti.
“It’s pretty amazing to see the park,” Jones says. “It’s transformed.”