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Bob R.

Brian wrote: Notice that the couplet portion is a less pleasant environment, especially for the pedestrian?

Notice that the Grand/MLK couplet is of a completely different design, number of lanes, pedestrian treatments, signalization, and speed limits than the Burnside/Couch proposal? ;-)

- Bob R.


My dream program on MLK would involve removing the medians and trees (I'm not kidding), expanding curbside parking, adding bike lanes, and restoring the old streetcar route that branched off to Alberta and St. Johns. The street right now is a pedestrian nightmare; the lack of on-street parking is a disincentive to storefront retail; the medians encourage higher auto speeds. I'm sure there are a million reasons why my vision is impossible, but... MLK could really use some placemaking.

On the plus side, there is quite a bit of decent development planned, including the Planned Parenthood clinic, six stories of workforce housing at Shaver, and a proposed multistory building on the lot next to Echo. Not to mention Vanport, the Graham St Lofts, and the new restaurant Terroir (even tho the architecture of that bldg is less than impressive). As other areas of inner Portland fill in, the incentive to invest in the street will increase accordingly.


Great timing Brian. I drove up MLK last night from Broadway to Alberta on my way to dinner and took particular notice of all the "dark" retail spaces along the corridor. There were so many empty storefronts we lost count. Most blocks had at least two or three vacant spaces but more new retail building and development was going up all over. The owners of these buildings have got to be nervous.


While MLK is still largely vacant, looking back 10, 20 years, its practically BUSTLING. Especially the stretch from the end of the couplet to the Popeyes (mmmm. Crawfish Basket!).

Just north of Freemont they have been working on the median strip and it seems to be working. Just added a few pedestrian accouterments. The old strip was largely a decorative traffic barrier. All it needs is a tweak or two to make it work. Some islands here and there, some clearing of the brush for visibility. I think the solution is at hand for the median strip.

Land value has certainly risen, the Miracles space almost sold for 2 million.

I think in all, its got a lot of momentum. I am not sure its ever going to be Portland's Finest Avenue, as it also functions as an important N/S route for autos. But its certainly a more pleasant place.

However, the Vancouver/Williams corridor (a great pedestrian couplet!) will be sucking the wind out of the sails a little bit in the next 3 years or so.


while I think it's wonderful that development is happening along MLK, it seems as though it's currently being held to a lower standard than elsewhere in town. Prime example is the new Mid-K Beauty Supply building just south of Fremont. This building has been occupied for a few months now, but there are a lot of beautification steps (ironic, eh?) that have yet to be taken--the landscaping is unfinished, sidewalks & curbcuts have yet to be repaired, there is trash all over, etc. As far as I can tell (and I bike past it every day) work is "done." There may be a good reason why site work completely stopped, but how is MLK going to improve its image when developers, owners, etc leave things in such a state? Incidentally, does anyone know who to contact at the city to complain about this?


someone always beats me to the comment, so I'll second it. nice try on the couplet comparison, but no dice, the proposed couplet is a million times better than the MLK/grand couplet, which is obviously ONLY about moving cars.

Brian Libby

I fully confess that the couplet aside was more impromptu wisecrack then well-researched comparison. This is a good example of how writing is different than talking, which I should remember more often when writing blog posts. (I don't try to get away with it as a working journalist.) When writing an off-hand remark parenthetically like that, I intend it to be something rhetorically that flashes by just for an instant. But in writing it, of course, the words are just hanging there, looking silly and ill-informed, forever. So anyway, my apologies for the distracting flippant remark. MLK anyone?


THe neighborhood screwed up a bit by not going with the emmons designed project on the corner of I believe ALberta. Instead they went with a a pretty boring standard brick building. The emmons building would have been a show stopper and definitly would have added a unique design to the street that could have drawn more people. You can see the design under the MLK section at this site http://www.emmonsarchitects.com/


craig, good point. on a street with traffic patterns like MLK one good way to root the streetscape is with head turning architecture.

gives people a reason to stop their cars, and gives pedestrians something to look at besides traffic.

as a side note i hate flash websites, but it was nice seeing pictures of the old king market for which i have many fond memories.


I agree that the neighborhood made a poor decision in choosing the LRS design over the Emmons one. The cupola thing is particularly gruesome. But I guess it has more of that "traditional" look. It's on the corner of Fremont, btw.

I think the Heritage Building is even more of an architectural failure.

Maybe as the street fills in, we'll get some good contemporary buildings that open up to, and celebrate, the street and its many communities and possibilities. Some eye-catching and confident architecture would definitely help build momentum...


Development on MLK is a challenge. First, much of the street was zoned for high density residential use during the Albina Plan. So, some of those languishing buildings are actually non-conforming uses that can't really change due to the zoning. Also, high density residential really doesn't pencil yet on the street. Third, PDC's urban renewal boundary doesn't include every site on MLK (by property owner request) so redevelopment incentives are not available to all. Fourth, many property owners refuse to sell, or are asking too much money or are waiting for prices to go higher. Did the building the Miracles Club rented actually sell? I heard it fell through.

I think that MLK will develop after V/W, Alberta, and Mississippi. There is too much traffic to compete with those other streets.

How can high density development happen on the street? Is it a matter of time? Would live/work work? Not sure if the city can/would consider changing the zoning.

The street functions well for commercial businesses such as Bardy Trophy, Henry V and US Stoneworks. Close to residential areas, close to the freeway, large buildings, some of which are for sale, and amenities like restaurants. Do you agree?


What is indeed up with that LRS building on Fremont and MLK? The poop that the homeless used to leave there looked better than than building does.
I mean really. Can someone from LRS speak up about this? Does anyone from there read this? Let us know. EVERYONE thinks it is pretty darn ugly.
I hope you have a good reason like The Mississippi Lofts building will have for their cornices that they have to put in to their building: community involvement.
I don't mean to be crass, but the street actually does have a lot of potential. The Ankrom Moison Vanport Square project does not look all that bad considering the headaches they all had to go through to get to this point. It will be quite nice actually.
But geesch, LRS, c'mon!


"Community involvement" can be such a curse for design projects...

Let's design something that everyone in the whole world loves! Oh, the joys of consensus aesthetics. :(

Fred Leeson

I spent a lot of time on MLK from 200 to 2003, working in a little office at MLK and Going. I just drove the street a couple weeks ago and was surprised at how much had changed...much of it for the better. It's hard to imagine a high-volume state highway becoming a pedestrian friendly retail street. But there are some encouraging signs. MLK will NEVER transform itself quickly...as PDC is learning. But given its history, small steps forward are good steps, indeed. MLK needs patience.


I've been working on a photoblog of MLK Boulevard (from Weidler to Lombard) as a way of marking what it looks like now, and what it might become in the future. Please feel free to check it out: http://mlkinmotion.wordpress.com/

It's a fascinating street. :)

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