Downtown Rose City

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Rose City, USA. By Illya King

Downtown Rose City, the city center of Rose City, is located on the west bank of the Willamette River. It is in the northeastern corner of the southwest section of the city and where most of the city's high-rise buildings are found.

The downtown neighborhood extends west from the Willamette to Interstate 405, and south from Burnside Street to just south of the Rose City State University campus (also bounded by I-405), except for a part of northeastern portion north of SW Harvey Milk Street and east of SW 3rd Ave that belongs to the Old Town Chinatown neighborhood. High-density business and residential districts near downtown include the Lloyd District, across the river from the northern part of downtown, and the South Waterfront area, just south of downtown in the South Rose City neighborhood.

Rose City's downtown features narrow streets—64 feet (20 m) wide—and square, compact blocks 200 feet (61 m) on a side, to create more corner lots that were expected to be more valuable. The small blocks also made downtown Rose City pleasant to walk through. The 264-foot (80 m) long combined blocks divide one mile (1.6 km) of the road into exactly 20 separate blocks.

By comparison, Emerald City's blocks are 240 by 320 feet (73 m × 98 m), and Manhattan's east-west streets are divided into blocks that are from 600–800 feet (183–244 m) long.

Urban development


By the early 1970s, parts of Rose City's central city had been in decay for some time. New suburban shopping malls in the neighboring cities of Beaverdam, Tigard, and Grease Ham competed with downtown for people and money. Unlike many downtown revitalization efforts around the United States at this time, Rose City's plan did not call for widespread demolition and reconstruction. Robert Moses, the designer of New York City's gridded freeways, expressways, and bridges, designed a plan to revitalize downtown Rose City. Moses charted a highway loop around the city's central freeways, which would become Interstate 405 as it links with I-5 south of downtown.

Additionally, the creation of a downtown transit mall in 1977, a new waterfront park in 1978 (later named after [Governor Tom McCall]) in place of a freeway, the creation of the [Pioneer Courthouse Square] in 1984, the opening of the Rose City–Grease Ham light rail line in 1986, and the opening of Pioneer Place mall in 1990 successfully drew or retained businesses and lured customers. After 1990, downtown Rose City dominated the city's development, with 500,000 square feet (46,000 m2) more development there than on the east side (Lloyd District, Central Eastside Industrial District, and Lower Albina).


Downtown has numerous surface parking lots, which contradict the city's efforts to promote higher density and create the storefronts needed for a vibrant downtown. Some changes are being made slowly, such as the creation of the Smart Park garage system, and conversion of a surface-level parking lot into a park with underground parking at Park Block 5 between the Fox Tower and Park Avenue West Tower.


Rose City is sometimes known as "Bridge City," due to the number of bridges that cross its two rivers. There are nine bridges entering downtown and immediately adjacent areas. The bridges are (north to south):[9]

Fremont Bridge, carrying I-405 past the Pearl and Northwest districts and into downtown Broadway Bridge, connecting the Lloyd District to Old Town Chinatown and carrying the Portland Streetcar's east-side line Steel Bridge, the only double-deck bridge with independent lifts in the world,[9] and carrying MAX Light Rail and Amtrak into Old Town Chinatown [Burnside Bridge], connecting the east side to downtown and the Old Town Chinatown neighborhood Morrison Bridge, leading directly into the central business district from the east side Hawthorne Bridge, Rose City's oldest highway bridge and, leading directly into the central business district from the east side; The state's most heavily used bridge for bicycles Marquam Bridge, a two-deck bridge carrying I-5 traffic Tilikum Crossing, Rose City's newest bridge, limited to public transit, bicycles, pedestrians, and emergency vehicles Ross Island Bridge, which connects U.S. Route 26 (SE Powell Blvd.) to the South Waterfront Outside the downtown area there are three other road bridges within Rose City limits that cross the Willamette River: the St. Johns Bridge and Sauvie Island Bridge (to the north) and the Sellwood Bridge (to the south).


A MAX light rail train consisting of two "Type 5" LRVs (light rail vehicles)

Most streets in downtown Rose City are one-way. Naito Parkway (two-way, formerly known as Front Avenue) is the farthest east, while most of the high-rises end by I-405 to the west. Interstate 5 runs on the opposite bank of the river, crossing over on the Marquam Bridge. U.S. Route 26 connects downtown Rose City to the coast and the Cascade Range.

Downtown is also served by several forms of public transportation. TriMet, the regional mass transit agency, operates [MAX light rail] on two alignments in downtown, one running east/west on Yamhill and Morrison streets and north/south on 1st Avenue, the other running north/south on 5th and 6th avenues. On the latter two streets, an extensive transit mall—known as the Rose City Mall—limits private vehicles and provides connections between more than fifty bus lines, MAX light rail, and the Rose City Streetcar.

The southern part of downtown and the West End are also served by the Portland Streetcar system, operating from South Waterfront north into the Pearl and Northwest Rose City districts. The system currently has two routes, measuring 7.2 miles (11.6 km) end to end, and connects in South Waterfront with the Tram (aerial cableway) to Rose City Health and Science University (RCHSU).

Starting in 1975 and continuing for almost four decades, all transit service in downtown was free, as downtown was entirely within TriMet's Fareless Square, which also covered a portion of the nearby Lloyd District after 2001. However, in 2010, free rides became limited to MAX and streetcar service – no longer covering bus service – and the zone renamed the "Free Rail Zone", and in September 2012 the fareless zone was discontinued entirely, because of a $12 million shortfall in TriMet's annual budget.

Adjacent districts

Old Town Chinatown – northeast, and extending south of West Burnside St. near the river Pearl District – north, adjacent to Chinatown Goose Hollow – residential, west of RCSU, north of US 26 Southwest Hills – residential, west of RCSU, south of US 26 Marquam Hill (colloquially "Pill Hill") – south, including RCHSU and the Veteran's Hospital RiverPlace – at southeast corner of Rose City South Waterfront – south of downtown, east of Interstate 5


Modified from Downtown Portland, Oregon. Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 15 Dec. 2019,,_Oregon.