19 Apr #TBT: Public Space and Local Businesses in Portland
How do public spaces support local businesses? How do local businesses contribute to a city’s public realm? In 2015, we visited Portland, OR with a group of city officials and business owners from across the U.S. to find out.
People in Portland recognize the mutually beneficial connection between businesses and public spaces and have taken innovative approaches to foster those relationships.
During our two-day stay, we visited some of Portland’s most creative entrepreneurs, restaurateurs, developers, and artists who collaborate with community members and Portland city staff to contribute to the city’s public realm, while also supporting their bottom line. We met a husband and wife duo who converted a vacant lot into a tiny house hotel (very Portlandia-y).
While enjoying a pizza lunch, the shop’s owner told us “the street is the commodity” to explain why he worked with the city to build a public seating area on top of a parking space (parklet) in front of his business.
Another group of entrepreneurs told us how they transformed surplus parking lots into ‘food cart pods,’ and told the story of how the city gradually came on board to support these popular foodie destinations (there are now 20 pods and 600 food trucks across the city).
We saw firsthand how businesses can create a vibrant and memorable street experience, which keeps people coming back and enjoying the city’s public spaces. It’s a virtuous cycle and one that any city can replicate if and when business communities, residents, and city officials come together with creative solutions.
Learn more about the ecology of public space and local business on our Doable City Reader.