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.

In Little Havana, once home to the largest concentration of Cuban exiles in the world, cars hurl down the Calle Ocho (SW 8th St) toward downtown but pedestrians take time to meander: tourists and locals alike drink cafecito (Cuban coffee) and coco frio (coconut water) at open-air counters between stops at cigar, tamale, and pastry shops. Afternoons, elders play dominoes under shade in the park and Latin music pours from cafes at all hours of the day.

Scenes from street life in Little Havana
Then there’s South Beach, a pastiche of tanned beach goers, pasty-skinned tourists, pastel architecture, and bright neon lights. Stroll down Lincoln Road and you'll find flea market peddlers and farm stands set up alongside designer boutiques and Starchitect-designed parking garages. Serendipitously, during a Sunday stroll, I stumbled upon 130,000 people gathered for Miami Beach’s annual Gay Pride celebration, an event even more colorful than its Art Deco backdrop.

Gay Pride Miami, the largest two-day event of the year in South Beach
It wasn’t until I arrived in the Wynwood Arts District, a small area north of downtown, that my Portland rader detected its first hipster vibe. First a suburban neighborhood, then a thriving garment manufacturing district, Wynwood was torn apart by urban renewal and highway building in the 1960s and 70s and ultimately ghettoized as the “Puerto Rican Barrio.” Today, this quickly gentrifying neighborhood of tony art galleries and restaurants sprinkled among warehouses is among the city’s hippest.

Hipster hangout the "Wood Tavern" in Wynwood Arts District
Eerily similar to Portland’s Alberta Street Arts District, Wynwood is a hotbed of activity for Miami's young creatives. Both districts declined through disinvestment and the dispersal of local minority populations only to be revitalized through local community development and city-led planning processes undertaken in a booming real estate market.

The epicenter of street art in Wynwood: http://thewynwoodwalls.com/
The districts differ in their local articulations of creativity as it relates to urban space. In Wynwood, nearly every inch of exterior space is covered in a dizzying array of graffiti-like street art, which I'm told is constantly changing. It lends an edgy, authentic feel to the neighborhood despite intense development underway. There also appeared to be many more walls and fences separating the public sphere from the private than we're accustomed to in Portland: in Wynwood, as elsewhere, Miami comes across as one giant gated community.

I wish I'd had a "First Stop Miami" expert to tour me through the city so I could learn more about the forces shaping this sprawling metropolis. It's apparent that rapid growth, speculative investment, high migration rates, and transient populations are all driving rapid neighborhood change throughout the city. While Miami certainly has its work cut out for it, the city potentially offers lessons for Portland, especially with regard to the changing dynamics of a multi-ethnic, global city.

Below, a brief sampling of the street art in Wynwood.



(Special thanks to Portland State's Institute of Sustainable Solutions and Office of Research and Strategic Partnerships for sponsoring this presentation.)


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.

11.20.2014

Portland's Apparel Industry: Driving Meaningful Change

Remarks given by Nancy Hales, Director First Stop Portland to the 2014 International Textile Sustainability Conference, Monday, November 10, 2014

On behalf of our entire city, I welcome you to Portland!!

Right outside and across the street from where you’re sitting - is the Willamette River. In 1843, two men, William Overton and Asa Lovejoy paddled up that river to this spot and laid claim to the site of our future city.  The fee for filing that land claim was 25 cents!  And they couldn’t agree on the name of this new city so, in 1845 – they flipped a coin to determine whether the city would be named Boston or Portland - (here’s the actual penny)! Thank goodness I am not welcoming you to Boston, Oregon!!

Two decades later, in 1864, Thomas Kay started the first woolen mill in Oregon which, in 1909, his grandsons - the Bishop brothers - launched Pendleton Woolen Mills.Today, over one hundred years later, Pendleton is a 6th generation local textile and apparel company. I’m wearing a dress curated from their current Portland Collection.

Fast Forward.  At the turn of the 20th century, in 1912 – we Portlanders planted our first official public rose garden and thus became known as the City of Roses. Also during that decade - -one of our more famous forefathers, Simon Benson, began installing free water fountains all over the city.  Local folklore insists it was an effort to “keep loggers out of the saloons at lunchtime.” Others say that it was Bensons’ effort to assure that “decent and upright citizens of Portland didn’t have to enter a tavern for a drink.”  Today there are 126 bubblers and they’re all over town, in front of taverns, micro-breweries and even city hall. When you are out in our city this week, take a sip and enjoy this pristine water that has been free-flowing from the Bull Run watershed to Portland for over 100 years.

Columbia Sportswear's "One Tough Mother" Gert Boyle presents to First Stop Portland delegation from Langzhou, China

6.26.2014

The Myth of Innovation

Remarks given by Sarah Iannarone, Assistant Director, First Stop Portland to 1000 Friends of Oregon Tom McCall Gala, June 20, 2104.

I want to debunk for you what I'm calling The Myth of Innovation, the idea that anything other than the relentless hunt for the next best game-changing idea is synonymous with complacency, stagnation, and decline. As Wayne Gretzky put it (please forgive the hockey reference in the midst of the World Cup), the mandate that we must "Skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it's been." Don’t get me wrong, change is inevitable and we must continue looking for creative solutions to problems that arise. However, I’m here to tell you that--based on the feedback I’m getting--we’re doing something right here and we need to keep our eyes on the puck at our feet.

So, who am I to tell you this?

What I’m sharing with you is based on 5 years hosting over 5000 visitors who’ve dropped by Portland to see what’s so special about this place. As the Assistant Director of First Stop Portland, I occupy an interesting position in an important conversation--learning what matters to leaders from around the globe, hearing the questions they’re asking, the answers they’re getting, and capturing their sometimes very frank feedback about how things are working here.


Debriefing visiting leaders from DaNang, Vietnam

Like it or not, we’ve become a model for the world.

As I speak:
  • 6 Oregon mayors are in Dallas, Texas presenting to a conference of mayors from around the country on the transformative power of collaboration…. spreading the message "There are no republican forests to protect; no democratic jobs to create."
  • Brookings economist Bruce Katz is applauding how "weird and crunchy" Portland just happens to be one of America's most global regions with the third-highest export intensity in the US
  • College educated individuals under 40 (the ever desirable "creative class") are migrating here at remarkably high rates--in good economic times and bad--along with affluent empty-nesters and retirees
  • The New York Times' love affair with our artisan culture continues week in and week out they gush over our "rules-be-damned style…divorced from old-school notions of propriety, service and polish"
  • And I stay extremely busy at First Stop Portland hosting the hundreds of people—from the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi to the Planning Czar of Auckland, New Zealand—who visit each year to see for themselves whether what's really going on here lives up to the hype
So, does it? 

5.09.2014

My afternoon with Auckland's Regional Planning Czar

Submitted by: Soleil Rowan-Caneer
First Stop Portland Student Ambassador

We meet in the lobby of the Marriott Waterfront and hit the pavement. I'm with Dr. Roger Blakeley of Auckland, New Zealand. We stroll down to Tom McCall Waterfront Park, seat ourselves on a bench overlooking the Willamette and open a window into the street level experience of Portland. After a quick intro about our interests and concerns, we walk south along the river towards the South Waterfront District, enjoying the teeming life and vitality of the park and the activity along the boardwalk on a beautiful, sunny day in May. Perfect Portland spring weather.

Roger came to Portland after participating in New York RPA's World Cities Regional Planning Workshop. He was one of 13 experts that were invited from around the world to advise on the most recent iteration of their regional plan. Roger tells us their goals were to “share world best practices on Regional Planning, give advice on the preparation of the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut Regional Plan, and be an ongoing international peer review group as the plan is prepared, and prepare a global manual on Metropolitan Regional Planning.”

In 2010, the Auckland region boldly merged all of their local governments into a single entity, The Auckland Council. Roger Blakeley is the Chief Planning Officer on the council, and one of his main roles is to develop a 30-year “Auckland Plan” before the end of the year. This is a visioning plan, similar to Metro's 2040 Concept Plan, that will guide future development for Auckland.