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David Dysert

It is exciting to contemplate what a firm such as Snohetta can bring to the Beard Market project and a very problematic site. One can hope they will pull off the magic trick required to solve this Gordian Knot of autos and asphalt. Indeed there have been several studied options to locate the market in a more approachable location but alas the deep pockets of Melvin Mark and the empty ones of Multnomah County have brought us to the head of what is without question the least attractive of bridges in Bridgetown; complete with its on-ramp to a freeway many Portlanders want to tear down. The task Snohetta has been charged: create a place that will be the essence of Portland but which is located on a site everywhere Portland does not want to be: along a highway, strangled and hiding under auto ramps, barricaded from pedestrians. It is understandable why this location would be thought of as strategic in addressing what is arguably Portland’s biggest failure downtown: the pock marks of parking lots in old town and lack of vibrancy along Naito. What is not understandable is why we would chose to place such a significant attraction on a site surrounded by automobile corridors and train tracks. Unless Snohetta is allowed to enclose the ramps it is hard to imagine how this site will be linked to the rest of downtown except via the bridge from the Melvin Mark tower. A market such as this should feature a clear, memorable and attractive entrance with strong links to existing pedestrian corridors and should not require skirting around an office building or dodging on/off-ramp traffic. True Snohetta has shown creativity with challenging sites but this may be their biggest challenge given site size and budget constriction. Let's hope Snohetta can solve this site and create a catalyst for our waterfront. And let's hope it is not too much to ask of the Beard Market to energize what is at present a seasonal patch of grass.

Dennis L.

This is the first time I have been excited about this project, such a great choice for architecture firms.

John McIsaac

Absolutely love this. It'll be a truly pivotal moment for the city. Hopefully Melvin Mark will allow SERA to create a building that will complement the design aesthetic of the rest of it.


The ramps to the bridge need to go. It's not going to make much difference in traffic to force cars to go around the block. With the ramps there, I fail to see how this is going to work, regardless of how great the architect it. Yeah, it might win some awards...and for some people that's all that matters. But you have a block that has little to no access on three sides. Talk about a nightmare. There is a reason this block hasn't had any development and why Melvin Mark took the best block for their office building. I'll be curious to see what they come up with but right now I just don't see it. Which is too bad because I hate to see a good idea fail due to location.

Jo Price

Sadly I think even with a great design firm this may be a failure. Location location location. With this kind of market thousands of people need to visit it both locals and visitors. The site is just not conducive to foot traffic.

Dennis L.

Jo, I have to disagree with you on this one. The only reason why this part of downtown doesn't have any foot traffic is because there is really nothing to walk to in this area. One could easily say that under the Burnside Bridge is not conducive to foot traffic, yet Saturday Market brings a crowd every weekend.

The off ramps are the biggest barrier for this site to deal with, if they can figure out how to either get rid of them or overcome them, then this will definitely be a game changer project for the city. Much of downtown is within walking distance of this site with plenty of parking and transit nearby as well. Heck, the MAX Red and Blue lines have a stop that is basically at this site.

David Dysert

Dennis, I don't think the Saturday Market site is an apt comparison. Unlike the Snohetta site, the Saturday Market location has excellent pedestrian access on all sides with some of the most charming and historic architecture and street paving in Portland. The Snohetta site is an auto fortress with only clear access from Naito. Even then one must dodge the cars from the on/off ramps. Functionally this site is an enormous challenge. Symbolically it is all wrong for Portland. But I do have hope Snohetta can solve this!

Brian Libby

Thanks for your comments, everyone. I'm beginning to wish that in my original post I had argued for the ramps to be removed. As has already been pointed out, I don't think those ramps are essential pieces of infrastructure. It's not unreasonable to expect cars to go around the block to get on the bridge, a change they previously made with disuse of the Hawthorne Bridge's on and off-ramps. And it would drastically improve the site of what seems otherwise poised to become a local landmark. It would be worth it to remove them.

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