Australian Students dub Portland, "City of 1000 Plans"

A group of students and faculty from La Trobe University in Bendigo, Victoria, Australia, came to Portland last month as part of a international study tour on sustainable urban development. They studied a range of topics including operation and implementation of the urban growth boundary; the strategic role of downtown and the policies that guide its development; the use of public transport investment and transit oriented development; and urban agriculture and food security issues.

They were led by global powerhouse, Professor Trevor Budge, whose work has him back and forth between Australia, where he teaches undergraduate and postgraduate courses in international development and planning, and Sri Lanka, where he spearheads the Australian Planning Institute’s six year Post Tsunami project. (Watch an award winning video on Trevor's programming in Sri Lanka.)

Students work on building a better food system with Alison Dennis, Executive Director PSU's Center for Global Leadership in Sustainability while First Stop Director Nancy Hales and Professor Budge discuss the week's events.

First Stop always welcomes a visit from Professor Budge and company and this time was no exception. Their visit was packed to the gills with engaging workshops and study tours with local experts, including:

  •  A discussion with Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder on planning and managing the Portland Metropolitan Area--long term policies and strategies, civic leadership and engagement, community consultation on the UGB, smart growth, compact city design, integrating transport and land use, and transit-oriented development. 
  • A field study of the newly opened Portland Streetcar Loop and emerging Central East Side Industrial District, including a conversation with developer Brad Malsin, founder of BEAM Development, about sustainable building techniques, historical and adaptive re-use, creative, community-driven vision of developing flexible, affordable living and working spaces, and the future of industrial sanctuaries.
  • A field study of South Waterfront with transportation guru Peter Koonce, PBOT, and OHSU Planning and Development Director, Brian Newman, where they explored role of public-private partnerships in the city's latest attempt at high-rise, high-density urban living. Their tour – via streetcar and aerial tram – highlighted many of the district’s innovative concepts: landscape design and greenscapes as part of TOD; how developers and local agencies are responding to the current economic recession; and transit’s role in the district’s eventual success.
  • A full-day Building a Better Food System workshop with Alison Dennis, Executive Director, Center for Global Leadership in Sustainability, Portland State University, that started off with an interactive seminar and panel discussion with local experts from Steaming Kettle Consulting, Ecotrust Food and Farms,and Sustainable Harvest Coffee, followed by a food system scavenger hunt and food system design challenge.
  • Attended a lunch hosted by PSU Planning Club Students (Masters of Urban and Regional Planning) where they discussed current research and PSU students listened while LaTrobe University students shared highlights and observations from their experiences in Portland and abroad. (Word has it the after hours knowledge exchange at Bunk Bar was exciting, too.)
LaTrobe Students navigate Portland by streetcar.
As with most study tours of this length and intensity, the LaTrobe students wrapped up their time with a debrief session hosted by First Stop Portland. Here's how one First Stop Student Ambassador, Alyssa Moretz, captured the experience:
The LaTrobe students brought an interesting perspective to what they called the "City of 1000 Plans" about our transportation network. Throughout their study tours, they juxtaposed what they saw with the problems and solutions of Melbourne, and their college town of Bendigo, Victoria. While Melbourne has the fifth largest tram network, it also has a crumbling infrastructure. The students were impressed by TriMet's "futuristic" buses and easy to navigate transit system. They also found investment by "unis" and hospitals of particular interest. Despite being dumbfounded by both the price tag and the view, the LaTrobe students connected OHSU's expansion with their own Bendigo hospital expansion.
In addition to their observations about Portland's transportation system, the students found a workshop led by PSU's Alison Denisa valuable inquiry into building better food systems. The Willamette Valley's bounty stands in stark contrast to the vulnerability of Victoria's crops.

What were their most valuable take-aways? Green culture, sustainability, food source consciousness, and the healthy lifestyles people seem to adopt in Portland. 
Any surprises come out of their experiences here? How easy it was to navigate trains, Portland's rich planning culture, and the "dead downtown nightlife."   
Visiting LaTrobe students enjoy a quick game of Frisbee while waiting for the streetcar on PSU's Urban Plaza
Tasked with developing a motto to replace Portland's current one ("The City that Works") here's what the LaTrobe students came up with: Nicer than LA; Warmer than NY; Places for People; Portland: Leading the Way; There is no I in Portland; City for the People; the City of 1000 Plans; The City for US; Our Portland; Portland: Get Around It; Transportland; The City that Moves; Portland: The Place to Be; Garden City; We Are the Future; Portland: We Think Differently; Portland: A Different State of Mind; Portland:We're on the Move; Portland: Reinventing Evolution.

Hard to choose a favorite, eh mate?


  1. "dead downtown life"...? Did they not check out the Old Town nightlife scene while they were here?

    I bet the campers at Right 2 Dream 2 would disagree about the lack of activity in Portland's downtown at night.

    1. It makes me mildly annoyed that you took the time to type out this asinine and off topic response. Why bother?