Does Portland's Urban Growth Need a Course Correction?

To curb suburban "sprawl on steroids" and foster higher density infill in Portland, a shift in planning strategy is needed, according to Rick Potestio, the principal of Potestio Studio, an architecture and design firm based in the city.

2 minute read

June 1, 2015, 11:00 AM PDT

By melaniecj

Portland often gets lauded for being a planner’s mecca, but a closer look at the region demonstrates that the high praise might not be totally warranted in some areas.

The city's growth management policies are creating a mutated form of sprawl, higher-density in the suburbs than in the urban core but with few of the urban amenities such as walkability, according to Rick Potestio, the principal of Potestio Studio, an architecture and design firm based in the city. Potestio calls it "sprawl on steroids" and adds that it doesn't gel with the beauty of the landscape for which Portland is known.

"The region is increasingly characterized by sprawl-like blight: acres of ugly, mundane buildings squat where once were green fields; rural roads overflow with traffic avoiding congestion on the freeways; housing is packed together with no commensurate urban amenities."

A change in strategy for planning is needed to curb this sprawl on steroids. That shift is what Potestio calls "the Commons" concept.

"The Commons concept is simple: focus high density varied-unit housing and uses around public spaces such as parks (the 'Commons') and integrate medium density varied-unit housing on any suited lot in a neighborhood. It would prioritize housing scaled for families. It takes inspiration from housing types commonly built in the early twentieth century, including twin-houses sharing one 'front door', courtyard complexes that mix micro row houses with apartments, duplexes, four-plexes, and towers of modest scale."    

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