PARKS & STREETS

Walkable streets full of shops and restaurants, our green parks, urban plazas, and wide paths edging Casco Bay make Portland memorable. How do you want these city assets protected and enhanced? Let us know and follow developments affecting Portland’s parks and streets here.

2 downtown streets define good (& bad) urban design

The only way to enjoy Free Street is for you and your office mates to drag your chairs out into one of the street's many parking lots on a sunny day.

One way to enjoy Free Street is to drag your chairs out into one of the street’s many parking lots on a sunny day.

For many people “good urban design” means pretty facades, handsome materials, and unique building shapes. By contrast, for us, good urban design is instead what attracts people to linger along streets and in squares.

Good city design includes many windows and doors, many side streets and many uses close together. We all sense good design –we seek out and relax in downtown places that have it and we avoid those that don’t.

This two-sided truth applies everywhere and can be found in downtown Portland. Consider Congress Street between Congress Square and Monument Square and its parallel cousin only one block away, Free Street. Continue Reading →

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What about Congress Square Park on a rooftop?

The Friends of Congress Square Park have made quick changes and added programs this summer that have activated the park for the first time in years.

The Friends of Congress Square Park have made quick changes and added programs this summer that have activated the park for the first time in years.

The City Council has charged the Congress Square Park study committee to report on the idea of a new park built on top of a hotel ballroom which would fill the current park.

To gauge whether such an idea makes any sense, look first at the problems with the park as it was for the past 10 or so years before this year.

People complained about three major problems. The park: Continue Reading →

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Can you curb your tongue enough to run for City Council?

In deed and word, the City Council would take away a park and give you a plaza.

In deed and word, the City Council would take away a park and give you a plaza.

Here’s a simple multiple choice test to see if you are ready to run for the City Council.

1. Congress Square is:

a. A 5-way intersection of Congress, High, and Free Streets and the abutting sidewalks and plazas.

b. A park occupying the northern corner of High and Congress Streets adjacent to the Vinland restaurant and the Westin Eastland Hotel. Continue Reading →

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What next for Congress Square and its park?

Congress Square model.smCongress Square is one of the most important open spaces in downtown because it is central to the city’s urban area, it is the central public space along Congress Street between Longfellow Square and Monument Square, it is surrounded by iconic architecture and major public (art museum, Children’s Museum) and private (Westin hotel, State Theater) buildings, and it hosts the primary streets through downtown.

There is no reason it could not be a jewel on the diamond necklace of Congress Street, and every reason it should be. So why isn’t it?

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Who’s accountable for enhancing our city parks?

That Portland is a spectacular place we can all easily enjoy is more a fluke of fire and ice and historic leadership than the result of any recent governance.  Glaciers shaped the peninsula, the islands and Back Cove, the Bay and the coastline. Fire prompted Lincoln Park, the Deering family granted us the Oaks, and James Phinney Baxter fought for the involvement of the Olmsteds to knit the Promenades together and for the development of what we now call Baxter Boulevard.

These historic parks and recent trails grant access to natural beauty for all of us, making the city so attractive and livable. For these extraordinary urban green places to have a bright future will require a broad vision, persistent attention, and dynamic leadership.  These days their future appears clouded because those ingredients seem to be in short supply. Continue Reading →

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Congress Square Redesign is Launched

Lighting could help mark Congress Square as a special place in downtown Portland.

On a recent Friday five groups of a half dozen people each spent about a half hour despite the cold and wind walking up the five streets leading to Congress Square, talking constantly, taking notes, jotting opinions. Each group contained a member of the Boston design firms of Klopfer Martin or Utile, recently chosen to propose a redesign for the square. Continue Reading →

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