No cars make for an inviting street scene

No cars make for an inviting street scene

 

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One of Portland's first pedestrian-only streets, on Southwest Ankeny betwen Second and Third avenues, opened in July.
Photo by Alexandra Shyshkina

“It’s been nothing but positive so far,” says Zach Dotson, chef and manager of Dan & Louis Oyster Bar in Portland’s Old Town neighborhood. On a recent Wednesday afternoon, Dotson was pouring a glass of milk for a thirsty patron of Voodoo Doughnuts  — and waxing enthusiastic about one of Portland’s first pedestrian-only streets, on Southwest Ankeny between Second and Third avenues.

The car-free space, which opened in July, is the result of a partnership between the city and Ankeny businesses to convert the low traffic street into a patio with outdoor seating. As part of the agreement, business owners along the street share the expense of reimbursing the city for lost parking meter revenue.

Before the transformation, a dark and isolated Ankeny evoked “certain undesirable elements,” says Dotson.  But the new and improved space, which features rows of picnic tables and decorative lighting to illuminate the area at night, “gives a whole new feeling to the alley,” he says.

The closure is a four-month pilot project, and the city will review options for making the space permanent on Nov. 1. Until then, the project is bucking conventional wisdom, which suggests removing parking and auto traffic has a detrimental effect on local shops and restaurants. Not so, says Penelope Papaioannou, the owner of Berbati’s Pan.

“It’s brought in business for us and made the neighborhood more vibrant and welcoming,” she says.

Linda Baker