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Portland, Oregon – Portland Transit Mall

Main Streets 2017: Oregon

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Like so many cities across the U.S., by the early 1970s, Portland was losing jobs, residents and economic vitality to its suburbs. But this city did something that continues to serve as a success story.

Portland’s 1972 Downtown Plan called for the remaking of its downtown to promote alternatives to private auto travel, with enhanced public transit, restricted parking, and many enhancements that could help remake downtown as a hub for re-energized city life. Out of the plan grew the Portland Transit Mall, a unique repurposing of a 1.2-mile corridor of 5th and 6th Avenues, one-way streets that have become the city’s central connector for public transit stations, plus bicycle and pedestrian travel.

Extending along some 57 blocks, through six downtown districts — among them Old Town, China Town and Portland State University — the Transit Mall received multiple improvements in the 2009 Portland Mall Revitalization Project. That effort brought light rail service to the mall, along with two new hotels and some 40 storefront renovations, all achieved through $1.5 billion in private investment.

“The original Portland Mall transformed the perception of downtown with its wide brick sidewalks, majestic trees, and its custom-designed furnishings and amenities,” noted the American Planning Association (APA) in designating this as one of America’s Great Streets. “It became one of the country’s most used bus transit corridors and marked a cultural shift in Portland, embracing transit and pedestrian mobility as a lifestyle choice.”

Attention to detail and visual appeal has combined with alternate transportation planning to make the Transit Mall an uncommonly appealing destination. The streets are lined with rows of trees and broad sidewalks of brick and granite. Sleek, low-profile bus and light rail shelters “give stations an updated, contemporary look,” says the APA, as all five of the region’s light rail lines converge here, along with several bus routes.

The Transit Mall also features more than 40 sculptures from more than 15 artists. Bicyclists can now travel the whole mall, which offers four “bike oases” and 130 bicycle parking spaces.

At the center of the Transit Mall is Pioneer Courthouse Square, “Portland’s living room.” Managed by an unusual community nonprofit, the Square hosts some 300 special events and theme days throughout the year and has repeatedly been honored as one of the nation’s best, most successful public spaces.

All photos courtesy of TriMet.

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Primary min 13

Baker City, Oregon – Main Street

Main Streets 2016: Oregon

A town that takes pride in its history on the Oregon Trail and its central historic district, Baker City, Oregon has 100 downtown buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. In fact, the magnitude and number of heirloom buildings within its 42-acre district, centered on Main Street, make Baker City one of the largest intact historic commercial centers in the Western United States.

With active support from organizations like Historic Baker City, a downtown revitalization nonprofit, and Destination Downtown — which promotes the central area’s shops, restaurants, jobs and livability — this small city of nearly 10,000 Oregonians, east of the Cascade Mountains, can relish the attractions of a bustling downtown that has aged remarkably well. And Baker City is as charming as it is historic: it has been named among the “Most Beautiful Small Towns in the USA” two years in a row by Rand McNally and USA Today.

Main Street offers a vibrant array of art, culture, entertainment, shopping and dining. Quintessential shops like Cody’s General Store, #1911 and Betty’s Books are as engaging on the inside as they are appealing on the outside. Main Street offers a number of other independently owned speciality shops, art galleries and restaurants. Especially worth a visit are Peterson’s Art Gallery, the Eastern Oregon Regional Theater, and the iconic and elegant Geiser Grand Hotel, which has been operating since 1899 and is known for its trademark clock tower. It even houses an old-time saloon.

Community and cultural events are plentiful here. Among the annual attractions are the Baker City Cycling Classic, Downtown Trick Or Treat, First Friday Art Walk, the Taste of Baker City and several holiday parades. The two-day Baker City Bronc and Bullriding in July is one of several rodeos in Baker County. The Powder River Music Review brings a variety of performers to the city on summer Sunday afternoons, and the National Day of the Cowboy concert is staged each June in Baker City’s Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.

All photos courtesy of Baker County Tourism – basecampbaker.com

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