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EdgePDX

It sounds like Savinar is on to something. I've always thought that that a downtown was often a sum of the little things rather than one big building, park or project. Simple things like pressure washing go so, so far tword making downtown a comfortable place for all. When I first came to Portland about 15 years ago the first thing I noticed about downtown was how sparkling clean it was. Now, it seems there's more trash, gum on the sidewalks and a bit of a coating of dirt. Perhaps it's time to revist the Downtown Clean and Safe program and make sure it's doing it's job.

ws

I believe that the occassionally printed, sweeping statements made by prominent members of the business community about panhandlers, and streetkids and their dogs downtown are inaccurate and not particularly helpful to the situation.

I'm used to the street crowd, but to a lot of people coming into town to visit, or who are vulnerable in one way or another, and who aren't familiar with the street crowd, the impression conveyed by such statements, irresponsibly strikes fear and paranoia in some of those visitors. People irresponsibly making such statements aparrently believe the city can wave a magic wand and turn downtown into some kind of retail utopia.

Better to take care of the problem more directly. 90% of the street crowd downtown wouldn't raise a blip on the threat scale. For those that are definitely problems, more people are needed to work with them in order to reduce the threat factor they seemingly represent. Suggesting that some guy who's rude, or asks a shopper for a spare buck be thrown in jail is simply unrealistic.

Providing more job opportunities through the clean and safe program for those who are able and want to work, but have difficulty doing so due to technical difficulties, could help keep downtown sparkling.

I think the idea behind "If there were more people living downtown, suddenly those vagrants playing hacky sack wouldn't scare the shoppers away." is that if there were more people living downtown, they might know those "vagrants" on somewhat more of a personal level, thereby allowing them to apply social pressure to shape up the kind of rude, threatening conduct that nobody should really have to put up with in public.

That might work, but where you have such a disparity between those that are well provided for, and those that really haven't got sufficient means to survive, suggesting that a happy state of coexistence might evolve is quite a stretch.

Again, it gets back to responding to every person's basic capacity for thriving on self esteem gained by doing for themselves. The city could create a lot of jobs taking care of downtown and other parts of the city. The city has a lot maintenance that goes undone for lack of available, affordable labor. Yes, of course, the potential workforce for those jobs would likely require extraordinary investments of special supervision to make it work.

In a rapidly growing, increasingly dense city, the alternative is unthinkable.

I really like Savinar's idea for turning the derelict comfort stations into newstands. They're so narrow though, seems like it would be a challenge to do that.

Lyle

I like most of Savinar's comments but these are band-aid moves as compared to the real issue. Downtown Portland needs to develop a plan that introduces both middle income and families to the mix. There are incentives and amenities that can make this happen. Downtown residential does not have to be limited to upper, upper middle and affordable housing. Until the city moves more decisively to allow this to happen, we will always take a back seat to the livable environment offered by Vancouver, BC.

gerry

There seems to be a lot of consensus that getting more well-off people to live downtown is somehow going to improve the area for everyone. Personally I don't imagine it will, but even more absurd is the hope that it might have a positive impact on the homeless "situation."

The fact is that downtown comes and goes. Every few years it seems to be on the way in or on the way out. Really, I don't think we can expect too much: in the old days there was definitely only one Downtown; today quite a few areas serve many of those needs. But if there's presently some sort of crisis, I fail to understand how we're going to solve it by giving more of the place over to the private ownership segment of society.

As regards the danger and the dirt: we need to get a few dozen cops out of their cruisers and onto the downtown beat. And we need trash cans again. Whose bright idea was it to get rid of all the trash cans?

Rob

The American Cement Building on Los Angeles' 2404 Wilshire boulevard is a model for loft conversion of a '60's modern office building into residential lofts with parking. Remodeled with simple kitchens along one wall and a basic bathroom, the spaces were initially rented with the option of condo conversion down the road. Owner occupied residential conversion works against the tear down cycle.

The building will be profiled on Sept 23 on some sort of cable channel: http://www.fineliving.com/fine/dwell/episode/0,1663,FINE_19216_35871,00.html
and in an article at http://www.nancyherrmann.com/Assets/dwell.pdf

Meanwhile the city's goal of attracting families to central multi unit development could be furthered easily by after school programs on site such as this one in Los Angeles: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/17/realestate/17nati.html?ref=realestate
(article online for a few days)

The urban streetlife story has been overplayed by the press and some business leaders, working against their own best interests and that of their advertisers.

Savinar as the Richard Singer of the Transit Mall has a nice ring to it - it is all about creative marketing and adaptability for the small businesses involved.

m conroy

I like the idea of preserving several of the shelters on the bus mall for use as newstands, flower shops and esspresso stands. But to remove badly needed restrooms is somewhat impractical. What we lack downtown are an availability of public restrooms. There was an article in the Oregonian this summer on just that: Relief Works makes case for more public restrooms. The restroom in Pioneer Square should be left as it is - a public restroom.

ws

Of course, the restrooms, or, more specifically, "comfort stations in question, aren't the restrooms under the fountain in Pioneer Square, but rather, the two blue structures on the southwest corner of the block Pioneer Courthouse sits on.

Those restrooms haven't been functional for years because the facilities are actually down a long flight of stairs within the structure. Could they realistically be refurbished as working bathrooms for that area? I doubt it.

Could something be effectively substituted for them? Not an easy question to answer. I've heard ideas being considered. On an expanded theme, I think Portland needs a far more serious facility to offer homeless people the ability to maintain at least minimal hygeine.

I kind of hope a good idea for using the structures in their spot, will come up.

Ryan

This may be an inconsequential comment, but I actually work downtown, and do not frequent Pioneer Square for any reason (and I 've always worked within 4 blocks of it) precisely because of the 'characters' that mob the place. It's a critical mass, if you will, of *allowance* that honestly deters the average lunch time enjoyement of the square. I know the alternative is repellant, but is there a balance? Or do I simply not know what a city is anymore?

ws

Ryan, you ought to really elaborate on who you find the 'characters' to be, and *allowance* you speak of. It could be interesting and helpful towards making psquare a better place to be.

I'd say psquare has security, but not enough, and not enough of the right kind. There should be more, let's say, hospitality monitors; not in cop uniforms, but with authority to counter uncivil behavior some folks enjoy inflicting on others.

Security currently goes around citing exclusions for such things as spitting, as well as the usual gamut of annoyances such as bike riding, loud radios or instruments and skateboarding on square. Soon, smoking is likely to be out as well. After all, how many people really want to be sitting on somebody's spit? And how many of the people spitting really need to be spitting in the first place?

There's two major groups of characters that occupy psquare on an everpresent basis. One is the bench crowd, a loose affiliation of many of the same street kids and what have you that have occupied those benches for years. Trust me. They can be alright, but for sure, a lot of people probably wouldn't want to sit with them. And of course, they're always there.

The other group is the high school hipsters. They like to do all the things you can expect young kids to do when they're away from their parents.

Not sure if one of those two are what bugs you about the place, but you ought to really let somebody who can do something about it, know.

Of course there's also a long list of other people coming through that block in this city; crazies, addicts, ex-cons, runaways, newly weds, foreign tourists, domestic tourists, bible thumpers, shoppers, families with young kids. After all, the place is basically a crossroads. Not everybody is going to like being in such a place.

Justin

A crossroads, precisely. Perhaps, then, it has too much energy... I am hoping the new square to the west of the Fox Tower will be slower paced, more peaceful; a plaec to get some respite from, not go crazy with thousands of people passing through it constantly. Like the Park Blocks or Tanner Springs Park...

If you live/work downtown, you are probably already getting enough of the energy in the area to want to seek it out and bask in more of it, which is why the waterfront park, park blocks, and Pearl District parks are so popular...

my $.02

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