7.19.2015

#PDXinRome ~ SPQR is our PDX

First Stop Portland Director Nancy Hales is in Rome for a two-day summit on cities and climate change hosted at the Vatican by Pope Francis and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. She'll be updating us on her experiences and observations as she meets with leaders from around the globe throughout the week.

 

You can follow her updates in real-time on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.





SPQR is our PDX. It is stamped everywhere in Rome: on manhole covers, corners of buildings, even bar napkins.  Senatus Populusque Romanus means "the Senate and People of Rome," and is almost as old as the city itself.  How old you ask?  Rome was founded April 17, 753 BC.

One would think that a city founded 27 centuries ago would have little in common with one only begun in 1851. Ha! I found multiple connections for the civitas. Here are my top seven:

1. Claiming two founding fathers and legends: Rome’s founding fathers were Romulus and Remus. They also claim being nursed by a she-wolf. Portland’s fathers, Francis Pettigrove and Asa Lovejoy, don’t have such auspicious beginnings, but did have that famous coin toss.




2. Public drinking fountains: Freely flowing drinkable water fountains are all over downtown. Rome’s equivalent to our ‘Benson Bubblers,’ however are also individually carved and unique, such as this one of a scary dude.  



3. Colosseum/Coliseum: this one is is a little older - actually 21 centuries older; um, enough said.



4. Celebrated public spaces with fountains: We have Lawrence Halprin. Rome has Bernini. Pictured is the Fontana dei Quattro Fium or four Rivers Fountain.



 5. Street musicians: Portland’s however don’t come with guys dressed like gladiators.



6. Green buildings: Here is Rome’s equivalent to Edith Green-Wendall Wyatt.



7. And perhaps the most fun of all - both cities love food, particularly iced desserts. We have Salt and Straw. Rome has gelato, and gelato, and gelato…..

  
Are these interesting coincidences or do they suggest something deeper about cities? Maybe to be a authentic place, a city needs a founding story. Piazzas and public gatherings are also required to enhance civic life. People-watching, whether on the sidewalk in an evening passegia or at a street fair on Mississippi Ave., is something both visceral and necessary. Connection to food and the soil of the local farmland is an idea whose time has come back for American cities.

So maybe a young city like Portland and an ancient city like the Eternal City both illustrate truisms that stretch across time. 

7.16.2015

Prepping for #PDXinRome: Advice, protocol, and a bronze rose

First Stop Portland Director Nancy Hales is in Rome for a two-day summit on cities and climate change hosted at the Vatican by Pope Francis and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. She'll be updating us on her experiences and observations as she meets with leaders from around the globe throughout the week.

 

You can follow her updates in real-time on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 




How do you prepare for a meeting with the Pope? What to take, wear, say, and ponder before arriving at the Vatican? Charlie and I spent the last few weeks in a crash course on these and other questions, with the welcome help of many knowledgeable Portlanders.

We’re now on our way, our luggage packed full with briefing materials and extra copies of Pope Francis’ #Encyclical Laudato Si. Also included is a small gift from Portland for the Pope.

I’ve learned a lot about our city in this whirlwind of preparation.  This Pope, a Jesuit who took the name Francis is beloved by many, many Portlanders. Our students at PSU all call him “the cool Pope.” More than once I’ve heard him referred to as “the Portland Pope.” And it comes as no surprise that the Encyclical reads in many places like our own Climate Action Plan and other earnest efforts by our progressive city to be a good steward of the environment, and of people. 


Of the many preparatory meetings we’ve attended, one in particular stands out for me. It was our first, actually, with Portland’s Archbishop Alexander Sample.  What was scheduled as a brief “official meet & greet” became an almost two hour session of serious and thoughtful conversation.  He and Charlie covered everything from homelessness to mountain biking in Forest Park.  “Wow,” I thought quietly, “He gets it.”    

As we were leaving I asked Archbishop Sample the question I would ask everyone, “In your mind, what is the most important thing Charlie should bring to the Vatican?”   

“Bring humility and love,” Archbishop Sample answered. “If you bring your humility and love, you will be open to whatever Portland needs for you to bring back home.”

A Gift from the City of Roses

Choosing the right gift to commemorate Portland’s place among the world’s cities invited to the Vatican, weighed on me. It should be simple; it should represent our city; it should be made here; most importantly it should carry the sentiment of humility and love. 

The hand-crafted bronze rose, below, has been designed and cast for Pope Francis by local Portland artist Kendall Mingey.  Pope Francis, we have learned, has a special fondness for white roses, so Kendall lightly flocked the flower with white.  The mold was broken after it was cast.  Look closely.  The bronze rose is actually a “reliquary,” which means a small vessel carrying precious items. There is a little secret compartment in the bud at the center.  In this compartment, she placed several seeds from Portland’s white rose bushes.  “Seeds symbolize hope,” she told me, “and the Pope is all about hope.”  

The Rosarians always say “for you, a rose in Portland blooms.”  Now this will be true for a man who has thought deeply and written passionately on the twin subjects of care for the planet and for its people, especially the vulnerable ones.  

The Mayor and I go to this historic meeting prepared, with love, humility, and a Portland rose.



6.10.2015

Waste no time! Eurasian waste management executives study Portland's best practices

Submitted by: Sarah Iannarone
Assistant Director, First Stop Portland

The last time the U.S. Department of Commerce brought its SABIT (Special American Business Internship Training Program) to town, a delegation of construction company executives were wowed when they kicked the tires on the then-under-construction Edith Green Wendell Wyatt Federal and OHSU/OUS Collaborative Life Sciences buildings, among others. (To refresh your memory, here's the blog post on that visit.)

This time around, the Feds brought eighteen Eurasian executives from the public and private sectors to study Portland's policies and best practices for managing and reducing municipal solid waste. They met with Portland companies, industry associations, and government reps to gather intel on trends, innovations, standards, and regulations relating to collection and transfer, landfill management, material recovery, reprocessing, and waste to energy systems.

It's a good thing "Waste not, want not" is gospel to these experts, whose visit to Portland coincided with the American Memorial Day Holiday, which forced First Stop compact what would have several days' material into little more than a day. How did we cover the breadth of Portland's waste management activities in such a short time frame? We, of course, relied on the knowledge and wisdom of our local experts.


4.20.2015

Reflections from "The Magic City"-- Miami, Florida

Submitted by: Sarah Iannarone
Assistant Director, First Stop Portland

Last week, I traveled to Miami to discuss with urban scholars from around the world the dynamics of placemaking in the global city. This included a presentation on lessons from First Stop Portland about how cities learn. The audience feedback was resoundingly positive!

View of downtown from Sunset Harbor, Miami Beach
Throughout the week, I had a chance to explore Miami, a city remarkably different from Portland--culturally, geographically, and economically.

Esperito Santo Plaza, CBD
What hit me first, apart from the tropical humidity, was the diversity—people of many colors and languages and social classes moving through a shared space in a manner that seemed choreographed, as if co-habitation had been negotiated over time such that it was no longer contested but almost embraced. Wandering the streets, the Miami I experienced was likewise diverse, composed  of a wide variety of urban forms.

There was the mirrored glass and steel high-rises of the powerhouse Financial District, “Gateway to the Americas,” where the typical American central business district ethos (and street population) reigns, including the mass exodus of automobiles from parking garages, followed by an eerily quiet street life after 5pm.

4.01.2015

Student Report, Day 2: Upplands Väsby, Sweden

 
Submitted by: James Alexander
First Stop Portland Staffer

Last week with First Stop Portland, I had the pleasure of hosting a group of urban and regional planners from the municipality of Upplands Väsby, Sweden. They travelled to Portland to learn more about our best practices in building neighborhood greenways and bikeways as well as exploring how Portland has transformed social, economic, and ecologic strategies through an urban design framework.

We started our morning touring the North American headquarters for Airbnb, one of the more recent additions to Portland’s "Flat White Economy-- that creative, internet-driven new wing of the economy." Airbnb recently expanded to Portland from the Bay Area and now occupies three floors of the historic Blagen Building in Old Town with over 200 employees. Their creative, open floor plan incorporates actual replicas of Airbnb listings throughout their offices.

Meeting room at Airbnb HQ in Old Town, Portland

2.19.2015

A city with no limits? The paradox of Houston

Submitted by: Nancy Hales
Director, First Stop Portland

CEO Angela Baker welcomed us to Houston’s celebrated Baker-Ripley Neighborhood Center. “Big is the only standard we have,” she told our Portland delegation. “Houston is a city with no limits.”

 Neighborhood Center CEO Angela Baker tours Marc Jolin, Multnomah County (center) and Dave Nielsen, Home Builders Association (right) through their 'wrap-around services' facility
No limits?  That’s an understatement, I thought, smugly.  No UGB, no zoning, no urban density commitments, no design review standards.  Sacrilege to everything a Portland urbanist holds dear.

But after three days of Randy Miller’s recent “best practices” trip to Houston, I had to privately eat a little crow.  No limits? Well, in Houston I also learned, it means some positives – like no limits to the size of philanthropic gifts annually contributed to hospitals, art museums and universities.  And, according to one Houston expert, it means no limits on vision or bold ideas. “We experiment a lot more here than you (Portlanders) do.” Ouch!  Did he just call Portland parochial?

James Koski (left) Deputy Chief of Staff to Mayor Annise Parker opens morning  plenary alongside Randy Miller (right)

12.11.2014

First Stop revists "The Myth of Innovation" on location in Brazil

Submitted by Sarah Iannarone
Assistant Director, First Stop Portland

In November 2014, I traveled to Brazil to share the Portland Story with an ambitious conference, UpWeek2014 hosted by Instituto Jourdan in Jaraguá do Sul, Santa Catarina (click to zoom in on northernmost yellow dot on the map, below).  This week-long exploration of the role of technology and innovation in social development brought together leaders from the state's university, public, and private sectors to discuss ways local governments can develop and implement solutions and promote economic development.

Like many places around the globe, Jaraguá do Sul and its neighbors hope to attract and retain tech-based companies (and the ever elusive "creative class") as part of their development strategy. Unlike many places, a contingent of local leadership (who are also First Stop Portland study tour alumni) understand the importance of civic engagement, placemaking, and public-private partnerships as central to their efforts. 

You can see, then, why First Stop Portland was invited to kick off UpWeek! with a keynote on urban innovation, Portland-style.

Now, it’s one thing sharing “The Portland Story” from a street corner in the Pearl District but another altogether to explain to an audience (many of whom had not yet heard of Portland, let alone visited) why they should care how Portland transformed from “Stumptown” of the 1850s to the “Creative City” we are lauded as today. Alongside my fellow presenters, (many from the tech industry) who approached innovation as the capacity to capitalize on the next best idea or platform, Portland's “innovation” story felt anything but. With terms like “asset-light,” “synergy,” “solutions,” and “disruptive” flying from Prezi slide to slide, Portland's steady-as-she-goes narrative of  incremental change felt megalithic in comparison.