Saturday, March 03, 2007

An Example For the U.S. National Capital Planning Commission: Dream Ahead to 2023 -- live, work, play atop I-405

Since the concept of a covered highway provides a more multi-dimensional use of land for benefiting more people, I attached this example to my statement above to the United States National Capital Planning Commission:

Visions for putting a roof over the freeway and reclaiming 26 Portland blocks will be presented today to a convention of landscape architects

Monday, October 5 1998

By Janet Christ of The Oregonian staff

In this city of visioning, dreaming and imagination, we are being asked to imagine yet again.

To project ourselves 25 years ahead in Portland and live in what is now freeway airspace.

By then, a swath of air through the west side may be transformed into 26 reclaimed city blocks.

Think of a brilliant West Burnside "bright lights" district, a pedestrian and cycling crossing that defies weaving freeway pasta below and a southern traffic connection that brings sense to six roads at the top of Southwest Broadway.

These are among a group of detailed visions for putting a roof over much of the Interstate 405 freeway and creating new land for city life.

Mayor Vera Katz will present the concepts today at the Oregon Convention Center where the American Society of Landscape Architects is having its annual meeting.

Sparked by Katz's February address to the city that promoted reconnecting neighborhoods split by the freeway, the architects' Oregon chapter took on designing the air above the 38-block-long ditch as a gift to Portland, the society's 1998 conference host.

With information from public workshops and sessions this summer, designers added their ideas and created a 20-foot model and sketches.

Paul Morris of McKeever/Morris Inc., a Portland planning and design firm, said the free six-month study is worth about $200,000 in work from the team of 30 design, planning and engineering professionals. It is one of three community-assistance team projects donated.

Katz said the City Council will be asked to approve a final concept plan in late November. And that she really does expect to see it happen.

Knowing what the development, engineering and even air rights costs are for such a mammoth project is still a ways off. At this point, when capping the freeway has not even been approved, no specific means of financing has surfaced.

"We must conduct a thorough economic analysis related to cost and market conditions and determine the level of interest of private sector investment, the mayor said, claiming that the value of freeway air space will increase greatly during the next 25 years with a rising population.

As one example, the architects study estimates a tax income of $625,429 based on a proposed section of 195,000 square feet of commercial space in the west end.

Katz also sees the project fitting well with regional plans for the next 25 years of life in the central city. The freeway lid concept came up in the 1988 Central City Plan. It is a way, the mayor said, to allow density within the urban growth boundary while taking the pressure off neighborhoods that prefer the current quality of life.

Morris said projections are that the 26 reclaimed city blocks will include six acres for parks and recreation,1,000 housing units, 50,000 square feet for civic and exhibition space, 650,000 square feet of commercial space, 1,800 permanent jobs and 2,200 parking spaces for existing needs and future demand. "It's a series of sutures. It's like we're healing," Morris said. The freeway divided the west side for 3.6 miles from Northwest Glisan Street to Southwest Fourth Avenue at Portland State University, clearing homesand stores that sustained largely Italian and Jewish communities.

Katz, who came to Portland the year before propertieswere condemned and the ditch dug in 1965, said reconnecting the streets is overdue and that pedestrians no longer should suffer inhumane walks on freeway overpasses.

Starting in the Northwest Pearl District, the concept map offers a three-block sports and recreation center with grocery store and commercial space on the ground floor and a covered soccer field on the top story.

Going south, people come into the bright lights entertainment district, which Morris describes as a Times Square. It includes a plaza surrounded by cafes, restaurants, night clubs, shops, offices, housing and parking. The site also is the doorway into the downtown business district

Much of the pedestrian routes are covered, so rain won't alter walking plans

Continuing, the concept shows office and retail blocks -- a mixed-use area to complement the light-rail system on Southwest Yamhill and Morrison streets. Main Street Plaza comes up next, three blocks connecting the Cultural District and PSU with Goose Hollow and Lincoln High School. Next to the Great Lawn -- more than a block of green open space -- looms high-rise housing.

More retail space, a civic and office center and high-end condominiums with scenic views are next in line.

And then comes the interchange of Interstates 5 and 405 -- the city's western portal -- dwarfed by an arched crossing for walking or biking. Along this section, freeway slopes are landscaped and terraced to capture stormwater.

Near the university, a new market square is created with four blocks of housing and plaza. It's a new neighborhood center, Morris said. And where the South Park Blocks just end beyond the university campus, a new events space is created, and more student housing rises.

At the south end -- or entrance -- of the project, a round-about connects six roads in a traffic circle whose center is open over the freeway. The nearby developments follow the design, arching toward the circle.

The capped blocks will stimulate other development and activity, radiating toward either side, Morris said. A13-block capping project in Duluth, Minn., finished five years ago, stimulated nearly $1 billion in private development for that city, he said. Building it cost about $220 million.

"Developers have personally told me that capping the freeway will lead to the redevelopment of many underutilized parcels bordering the freeway," Katz said.

But where to begin? Morris said that when public groups looked at specific sections along the freeways path, and when separate groups of architects and developers also were asked to pinpoint crucial sites, all three groups fingered the same top two ideas in the west end: the Civic Stadium areas mixed-use blocks by light rail, and the bright lights entertainment center.

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