Portland Provides a Lesson in the Dangers of Densification

The Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood of Portland, OR has seen a wave of new development over the past two decades. But without the expansion of basic services and amenities, the area is struggling to integrate newcomers. Is poor planning to blame?

1 minute read

January 2, 2014, 12:00 PM PST

By Jonathan Nettler @nettsj


"The Outer Southeast Community Plan was supposed to make east Portland a better place," writes Brad Schmidt. To accommodate the smart growth necessitated by the city's pioneering growth boundary, "[l]arge lots would be divided into small blocks with cozy streetscapes. Roads would be paved, sidewalks built, trees planted, transit service improved, the entire area cleaner and safer, according to the 'perfect vision' that accompanied the plan."

"Today, Powellhurst-Gilbert is the land of cheap, dense housing crammed into a community that still lacks basic public improvements such as paved streets, sidewalks and nearby parks," notes Schmidt. "In a city nationally renowned for smart urban planning, Powellhurst-Gilbert represents all that Portland leaders got wrong – and the legacy of problems that will haunt generations of residents for decades to come."

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