Over the February reading break, 16 first-year SCARPies headed south to Oregon for the third annual UBC planning students trip to Portland. The group set up shop in an old Victorian, located in the heart of the inner-city between the long-established Northwest neighborhood and the widely-lauded Pearl District, a former industrial and railyard area that has become the poster child for successful urban redevelopment in America.
During the trip, students spent a day meeting with Mia Birk, a principal and founder at Alta Planning and a key player in Portland’s charge to the top of many North American bicycling indexes through her previous work for the city. Students were treated to an hour-long presentation in Alta’s restored turn-of-the-century office on the east side of the Willamette River, which tracked the evolution of the bicycling movement in Portland and the growing momentum of cyclists nationwide.
Following the presentation, the SCARPies gorged themselves with a hearty Lebanese meal at Nicholas’, an old standby of the Inner Eastside, before making their way over to the Eastbank Esplanade, an innovative public space carved out along the riverside between the Willamette and the I-5 freeway. From the floating gangway the group headed into the Eastside neighborhoods of Belmont and Hawthorne, walking through the streets before setting up shop at the Baghdad Theater, one of the city’s many theaterpubs, to sample some local beers.
The next day was filled with activities with the City of Portland’s planning department, beginning in the morning with an overview of Portland’s planning background and evolution through the modernist era of the ‘60s and ‘70s up to the present.
SCARP students were treated to a walking tour of the downtown core, traveling through the various layers of planning history in the city while being guided past Pioneer Courthouse Square, the city’s main plaza, to Waterfront Park, a former freeway, and into Chinatown before finishing in the Pearl District. Lunch was taken at one of the many food cart pods that occupy parking lot space in downtown Portland, followed by a quick run to Voodoo Donuts before returning to the City offices to hear presentations on food systems, neighborhood infill efforts, and industrial lands policy.
The final activity of the day was a tour with city planners of the newly created South Waterfront district, a brownfield site being redeveloped using sustainable principles and the point-tower model of Vancouver. With rain starting to break up the good weather, SCARPies departed Portland to head back north to Canada after a successful and informative trip.
“The highlight of our trip was the opportunity to hear firsthand from city leaders how Portland has sought to address some of its biggest planning issues, from containing sprawl and supporting strategic urban growth to the development of extensive bike-friendly infrastructure to the revitalization of the formerly-industrial Pearl District,” said SCARP student Autumn Lotze.
“Our meetings with the Portland planners gave us plenty of food for thought on the journey back, not the least of which is how to get Portland-style food trucks out to UBC’s campus and how to get ourselves back to Portland again next year.”