5 Leading Urban Innovation Initiatives

October 30, 2017 | | View Comments

Discover some of Portland’s leading urban innovation initiatives, ensuring a brighter and more vibrant city of the future.

Portland has been a leader in urban innovation for decades, implementing strategic plans such as the urban growth boundary and an expansive public transportation network. Rather than expanding out, we found some incredible ways the city is projected to improve upon unused and unoptimized spaces to create more “20-minute neighborhoods.” A name coined by Susan Anderson, Director of Portland’s Bureau of Planning & Stability, to describe the concept of connecting Portland neighborhoods with enough pedestrian access, businesses and facilities, as well as the population to support those businesses within a distance of 20 minutes walking.

Beyond these concepts, urban innovation continues to make our city more vibrant and connected through creative minds and invested organizations. Read more about these leading initiatives below!

The Innovation Quadrant

Image courtesy of Portland State University.

Born with inspiration from some of the world’s greatest hubs of idea generation, leaders are working to develop an “Innovation Quadrant” – a central district defined by organizations facilitating job creation, employment and educational opportunities. PSU, OHSU, OMSI, and PCC, among others, are headlining the effort to create this district, hoping that such identity will showcase Portland’s advancements in technology, healthcare, and entrepreneurship, potentially allowing for more investment into the growth of our community. Currently investments are being made into the area’s public transit, and developments which will create more recreational and green spaces throughout the quadrant.

Zidell Yards

Image courtesy of Zidell Yards.

Once home for building and launching steel barges, Zidell Yards holds significant Portland history. The group now looks to the future to be a leader in urban innovation; in 2016, the Zidell family unveiled a plan aiming to turn the 33-acres of their undeveloped property along the South Waterfront into a lively new district. The plan places significant value on pedestrian walkways, Willamette River access, and providing space for innovative ideas, all while preserving the legacy of the land and the people who made it so.

City Repair

Image courtesy of cityrepair.org

Just as essential as the new, upkeep and restoration play a vital part in ensuring a vibrant city.  Projects like City Repair, a not for profit, volunteer-based organization aiming to honor the interconnection of communities and the natural world. Street painting, ecological landscaping, and natural structures built with minimally processed and renewable materials create unique, heartfelt, and sustainable identities for Portland communities, including the intersection repair project pictured above.


Park(ing) Day

Image courtesy of Opsis Architecture.

One day a year, our outdoor-loving community gets an additional, miniature boost in creativity and urban reimagination. Park(ing) Day invites the public to create a tiny park the size of a parking space – in a parking space. Participants design spaces that can mimic rural parks with turf and temporary foliage, encourage recreation with lawn games, and even allow for some much needed R&R with hammocks and bean bag chairs. This international event is backed by the Portland Bureau of Transportation, and is open for any and all participants. Reserve a parking spot, design an urban park, install and enjoy!

The Green Loop

Image courtesy of Untitled Studio.

One of Portland’s most exciting concepts of the Central City’s 2035 plan, The Green Loop aims to build a 10-kilometer linear park that creates a more connected,  central city. This linear park will run along the East and West sides of downtown and across the Broadway bridge to the North and South Tilikum Crossing bridge. The concept specifically focuses on safer and more appealing means of transportation for commuters who walk or bike. It aims to improve transportation to and from central Portland destinations, providing goods and services and a stronger connection between the many diverse areas throughout the city.


For more inspiration in urban innovation, join us for Design Museum Mornings: Provocations for a More Vibrant City on November 3rd at Union/Pine!