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A federal grant will support permanent features at Pride Plaza and create a new plaza linking food destinations.

COURTESY PHOTO: PORTLAND BUREAU OF TRANSPORTATION - Pride Plaza at Southwest Harvey Milk Street between Burnside Street and 12th Avenue is one of 10 street plazas in Portland.Recently awarded federal funding will support car-free street plazas in downtown Portland.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation launched its Public Street Plazas program to spur economic recovery during the pandemic, creating pedestrian-centric plazas along 10 streets across the city. The street plazas are blocked off to motor vehicles and make space for people to walk freely between businesses, outdoor dining, community gatherings and public art.

A grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce will bring permanent enhancements to an existing street plaza — Pride Plaza — and create a new one linking a food cart pod to the defunct O'Bryant Square Park, which is expected to be refurbished.

The $1.2 million grant was funded by the American Rescue Plan to boost tourism sectors impacted by the pandemic, officials said announcing the grant award on Sept. 27. It includes a local funding match of $302,000.

"During this pandemic, we learned how important it is to use our outdoor public space for community members to come together," said PBOT Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, thanking federal officials and Oregon's congressional delegation. "Plazas like these downtown will help us make Portland a more inclusive, equitable place, and help grow our small businesses and cultural destinations."

Slated to receive permanent enhancements, Pride Plaza is currently located along Southwest Harvey Milk Street between Burnside Street and 12th Avenue. The plaza celebrates the LGBTQ community and provides access to several popular restaurants, bars and shops. It was reduced to one block ahead of nearby construction.

City plans show the federal grant will support the extension of Pride Plaza another block from 12th Avenue to Southwest 11th Avenue and create a new plaza on the eastern side of 12th Avenue between Southwest Washington Street and Harvey Milk. Planning and community involvement for the design of the Pride Plaza improvements will start in early 2023, with construction by the fall, according to PBOT officials.

Additionally, the grant will create a new plaza connecting Ankeny Park West's Cart Blocks food cart pod, located at Southwest Park Avenue and Burnside Street, to O'Bryant Square Park.

The plaza will include a segment of a future 6-mile linear urban park, called the Green Loop. The park was conceived as part of the Central City 2035 Plan to connect the city's central east and west sides with a multimodal route complete with green space between shopping areas, employment centers and cultural attractions. Construction on the Green Loop will first occur near the food cart pods with other sections expected to be completed later.

COURTESY MAP: PORTLAND BUREAU OF TRANSPORTATION - A map shows streets in Portland slated to receive car-free plaza enhancements as part of a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce.O'Bryant Square Park, which was closed and fenced off in 2018 after its rose-shaped fountain caused water damage to the underground parking garage below it, sits catty-corner to Block 216 — the site of the future Ritz-Carlton hotel. The 35-story Block 216 tower will include an indoor food hall, and developers have been seeking tenants for up to eight operator spaces. Construction on the tower is expected to be completed by March 2023.

Plans to demolish the parking garage under O'Bryant Square Park, refurbish the park and reopen it are in the works, the Portland Monthly reported last month. Construction on sections of the Green Loop adjacent to O' Bryant Square Park will be coordinated with the redevelopment of the park, according to PBOT officials.

The entire grant-funded project will help create or retain 290 jobs and generate $1.9 million in private investment, according to grantee estimates, commerce department officials said.

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