A Park for City Hall

Parking at City Hall

The on-going brouhaha over the eventual fate of the Plark at Congress square has left many Portlanders to consider the fate of open space through the city. While it is natural to think that open space is rare in a dense urban area like Portland, the truth is we are filthy with open space all over the peninsula and throughout greater Portland. And while these areas are not parks per se they do contain the word “park” in them. Surface parking lots take up a lot of land in Portland. I mean a lot allotta land, like a huge amount. It might not seem that way when you are walking around but if look at an aerial map (y’know the google thing) you’ll see big clusters of cars that aren’t moving because they are parked.

And in addition to car parks (as the English call them) we have cars in parks, like in Deering Oaks. So before we get our you know what’s in a you know what (you don’t know what? well here is a hint, it is a quaint English term that includes an article of clothing and means getting all worked up and snippy) let’s consider how much we really value open parks compared to how we value dead spaces, like parking lots.

Thus my first recommendation is to identify some surface parking lots to be converted to Parkland, just by converting 2% of parking lots to parks would be a significant increae. But why limit the targeted area to parking lots which are at least serving a function (albeit a destructive one)? Portland, like other places, also has several unused plazas, dead spaces; many of which are never occupied by anyone.

City Hall’s court de honneur (or plaza surrounded on three sides) is a dead space. In spite of being a important civic location in the downtown office area the most exciting thing in the plaza of city hall are a couple of bike racks. Unlike the space at Congress Square, City Hall plaza doesn’t need much to make it a pleasant place to have a lunch of stage a rally. (Portland’s currant rallying point, Monument Square, is visible but acoustically challenged).

City Hall is built in the Second Empire style. Its grand steps and symmetrical wings form a well proportioned court de honneur that would form a picturesque backdrop for public events or mid-day meals.

Thus my second suggestion is to turn city hall plaza into a park: Some creative paving, some nice planters, improved seating, and maybe a statue. Our City hall should be an open, welcoming place, as well as a refuge.

Or we can turn it into parking.

Zack Barowitz

About Zack Barowitz

Zack Barowitz is a writer, artist, and flâneur. He is the radio host of "This Land Is" on WMPG Tuesday nights at 7:30. His work can be seen at ZacharyBarowitz.com.