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Portland's 'Green Loop' would connect city with continuous park

The city is making plans for a new continuous park and trail. 

<p>Courtesy: United Studio</p>

PORTLAND, Ore. -- As Portland gets ready to build 100,000 more households in the next 20 years, the city is making plans for a new continuous park and trail. It's called the Green Loop, and it would open up space between all the new apartment buildings popping up, and connect us to our neighbors.

Urban planner Courney Ferris and her team just won the city's contest to design a Green Loop. They're architects and urban planners who graduated from the University of Oregon together, and are now about to design the future of Portland.

"A growing city is a healthy city, and this gives us incredible opportunities to invest in public infrastructure like this," Ferris said.

They were tasked to create a six mile continuous park that connects all four quadrants of Portland for people to meet, hang out and exercise, and get it on the books to save open space.


Photos: Green Loop design

Their winning design uses existing roads, on less busy streets, and widens the pedestrian and bike areas. Some areas even use tunnel-shaped trestles for visual interest, rain cover or event space.

It's similar to Manhattan's Highline Park on two miles of an elevated train trestle, or Chicago's 606, a loop park that has turned strangers into neighbors.

In Portland's version, no buildings would be demolished, but some might not be happy to hear that a few street parking spaces and driving lanes would go away. Ferris and her team will use their winning $20,000 grant to create exhibitions, showing the public their concept and getting elected officials excited about the possibility of making it happen in the future.

The six miles of park would link existing places like the downtown park blocks, run over the Tilikum Crossing and through the Rose Garden and Lloyd District. Six miles is almost a 10K, so planners think a race on the loop could be a future city event.

They want individual Portland neighborhoods to give feedback to make their green loop section unique. Ferris' design partner Will Smith explains, "You're biking along and you hit this street with all these trees and you know you're on the Green Loop but at the same time, maybe this neighborhood decided they wanted a long water feature that you can sit next to and you'll know you're in that certain neighborhood. Cities already work that way, neighborhoods feel different, like Lloyd feels different than lower Southeast Portland."

Mark Raggett, Senior Planner with the city's Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, is overseeing the concept.

The Rose City is known for thinking big, and Raggett says this Green Loop would let us grow in a very Portland way.

"I think it could be something that could be right outside your window and somebody could use everyday as well as become an attraction from someone farther outside the city and region where they could come be a part of," Raggett said.

A potential city council vote, along with the public taxes and donation or philanthropic money to pay for this, is still a long way off.

Smith says a big project like this would keep the city's personality intact. "Portland became Portlandia, and then everyone noticed it and decided we're all going to come here. And so we're all here, and the question now is not necessarily can Portland stay exactly what it was, but can it keep growing in the ways that made it special."