“Benzo Benches” Removed in Old Town

The one block stretch of the Old Town transit mall on NW 5th Avenue was a notorious open air drug market until the city intervened.

benzo benches The MAX station benches along 5th Avenue in Oldtown.

The notorious open-air drug market on Northwest 5th Avenue between Couch and Davis streets is no more, following efforts by police and neighborhood businesses to discourage drug dealing and loitering.

Police reports referred to the stretch of TriMet’s transit mall as the “Benzo Benches,” after the pair of prominent steel and wood benches that were installed on the sidewalk in 2009. Those benches were removed in October at the request of local businesses.

“It seemed like the benches were encouraging people to hang out,” says Scott Robertson, operations manager at Portland Mall Management Inc. “We have the benches in storage and will reinstall them as soon as we are asked to do so.”

The mall was clear of loitering on a recent weeknight, partially thanks to a chain-link fence put up around the neighboring parking lot.

The benches are another example of wood furniture disappearing from Portland landmarks—Multnomah County’s Central Library plans to remove much of its oak furniture.

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