Our Neighborhood-Reimagined

At Grafletics, our passions go well beyond design, but our focus is always local. For our Brand Manager Sam, it is urban planning, as he pursues a degree in the field. He got into planning because he loved biking around Portland growing up as well as the greenery throughout the city, and saw it as a way to help spread these things as well as improve the underlying problems our city and many others face.

~this is bound to make some people quite angry, but mostly happy;)~

As our neighborhood of Sellwood has grown, so has everything in it. The once calm intersection in front of our store has become a stuffy nose of commuting traffic, creating a loud and dirty street in an otherwise ideal neighborhood. As a planning student, I wondered how a different approach to our street could impact business for us and improve our neighborhood as a whole.

I reached out the the Better Streets Project, a group who re imagines streets as focused around people, to get a visual look of what our block of Milwaukie Ave could look like built for the people.

The result was the AI generated image you see atop this post. It depicts Milwaukee Ave as a place where people are the center of the street, able to freely walk and ride at their leisure, without fear of a 7 ton F-350 from Gladstone running them over. Furthermore, more greenery is introduced to the street, creating an inviting street, lowering temperatures on hot summer days, and providing protection from rain. The impacts of such a change for can be immense, especially for a highly populated historical area, filled with small businesses. Some immediate improvements to the area will be lower noise pollution and increased safety for cyclists, pedestrians, and other as a result of less cars. This is especially important with a busy intersection in a neighborhood with lots of families and kids.

For Grafletics, and small businesses in Sellwood-Moreland, such a change could bring about a nearly 30% increase in sales. Small businesses depend on foot traffic and window shopping to gain sales and awareness. People spend more time shopping and walking into stores on foot, and nearly none in their car. People focused streets bring out droves of potential customers on foot as they spend more time in the area and feel more comfortable in a safer street.

Other things to improve quality of life in the neighborhood such as  less construction for road repairs and a healthier lifestyle are all included with a people centered street. Additionally, the area becomes even more of a destination for shopping and dining, especially given our close proximity to a MAX station and bus routes. 

Finally, for the super locals, we can easily drink at Kay's, Limelight, or any other bar, and easily walk home without fear of being hit.

Some FAQs about pedestrian focused streets:

What about traffic?

Studies from similar projects in NYC, SF, and others have shown no change to traffic on side streets, and often a decrease in overall traffic in the area. Plus, having the main intersection of our area constantly clogged up is the worst.

What about businesses?

In Portland, the high concentration of small businesses all stand to benefit from more foot traffic and less congestion at their storefronts. Parking spaces also take away line of sight into our stores as well as take up space restaurants could use for outdoor dining.

What about people who cannot get places without cars?

Some areas need car access, especially for handicapped and service vehicles. The Dutch concept of Autoluw, emphasizes allowing limited access for trips by essential cars, something that is easily adaptable to any car-free street.

This sounds cool, how can I learn more?

Some videos:

1. Not Just Bikes (a badass urban planning channel)

2. Bloomberg (the less political business people)


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