It's been an eventful year in Old Town/Chinatown since the city started closing off roads on weekends to accommodate bar and nightclub traffic. Some folks are happy with the so-called "entertainment district pilot project." Others quietly seethe as barriers go up on Friday and Saturday nights.
If you've got a take—and a stake—Mayor Charlie Hales' office is hoping you'll volunteer to find some answers in what's been something of a static and controversy-racked operation. Hales is convening a committee of neighborhood stakeholders to meet much of this year.
There's plenty of reason to improve the situation.
The project began in 2012 under then-Mayor Sam Adams. Hales, the city's police commissioner, has seized on cops' support of the closures, putting substantial effort into making the area safe and attractive.
But pretty much only the police bureau is happy. Cops say crime on Friday and Saturday nights is down nearly 30 percent, and largely credit the closures of NW 3rd and several adjacent streets for that.
Residents, too, havevoiced frustration with the closings. Some of the neighborhood's social service organizations think the closures legitimize drunken revelry in an area packed with clean and sober housing. The Old Town Chinatown Community Association eventually signed off on a year-long extension of the project, though it balked when the mayor's office pushed a two-year extension. The group has concerns the effort is too narrow in scope, leaving Old Town's non-bar businesses out in the cold and ignoring larger issues.
The city still hasn't found reliable funding for the project, though it's brought costs down quite a bit. And, late last year, cops inexplicably ceased putting out specially made signs warning streets would close at 10 pm. The number of cars towed each week soared.
Oh, and by the way: The city has signaled it could be looking to expand the entertainment district.
If you're an Old Town/ Chinatown resident, worker or business owner, you probably know much of this. If you'd like to attempt to sort through these thorny questions, be willing to commit to a meeting a month, February to October. From Hales' office:
All applications should be submitted via regular mail, email, or fax to the contact information provided in the application form by midnight on Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. Decisions will be made by Tuesday, Jan. 24.
The first meeting of the committee will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014.
To apply, or for questions or concerns, contact:
Office of Mayor Charlie Hales
1221 SW 4th Ave, Suite 340
Portland, OR, 97204
Tel. (503) 823-4027
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!