Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Mini Restaurants


Small restaurants can help rejuvenate areas and serve a vital need in a commuity. Checkout this develpment in northeast Portland, called the  "Ocean micro-restaurant collective".  We ate at the Pie Shop, 521 NE 24th Avenue. Yumm! We had chicken pot pie, but they also had all types of sweet and savory pies. Around the corner, in the same development are a number of other small restaurants, Slowburger (2319 NE Glisan),  24th and Meatballs, a taqueria: Bibiano's Uno Mas, and a bar. All mini-restaurants with casual outdoor seating. Some of the restaurant storefronts have roll up doors in what looks like small warehouse spaces. This is a great idea for inexpensive development of restaurants.

According to The Oregonian (Nov 9, 2012 by Michael Russell), this was a $1.45 million dollar project where the eating establishments are bigger than food carts, but smaller than a typical restaurant.  Each space is about 600 square feet and purportedly could be built out for $40,000 to $80,000 each. The developer is Kevin Cavenaugh.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Glenwood Springs, Colorado

We were fortunate to visit Glenwood Springs in February. A bit of background of the history of the city from the Glenwood Chamber Wesbite: "Glenwood Springs is located 40 miles north of Aspen, Colorado and 60 miles west of Vail, Colorado. Awe-inspiring Glenwood Canyon is the gateway to western Colorado and is the starting point of many popular hiking trails like Hanging Lake and Grizzly Creek. ( By the way, we have hiked the STRENUOUS hike to Hanging Lake in the dead of winter.. incredible vistas )At the confluence of the Colorado River and Roaring Fork River, Glenwood Springs is known for its rafting, kayaking and gold-medal fly fishing. Glenwood Springs is home to the world’s largest natural Hot Springs Pool, the natural underground Vapor Caves at Yampah Spa, and the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park and Historic Fairy Caves.

The Ute Indians were the first to call Glenwood Springs home. They enjoyed the healing powers of the hot mineral springs, they called "Yampah," which means "Big Medicine." In 1860, Captain Richard Sopris was the first white man to lay claim to Glenwood Springs. By 1883, the area had grown into a rough-hewn town of bars and brothels, populated with gamblers, gunslingers, miners and madams. In 1890, a bath house, lodge and pool were built near the hot springs' source. Glenwood Springs became known as the "Spa in the Rockies" and attracted the rich and famous of the day, including President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, President William Taft, and the "Unsinkable" Molly Brown. Glenwood Springs also attracted infamous gangsters such as Al Capone and Diamond Jack Alterie. Gunman-gambler-dentist, John Henry "Doc" Holliday came to Glenwood Springs in hopes of curing his advanced tuberculosis by soaking in the hot springs. The mineral-rich waters couldn't help him, and he died in Glenwood Springs in 1887. His memorial is located in the Linwood Pioneer Cemetery, just a short hike from historic downtown Glenwood Springs." (

We ate in the Doc Holliday Bar... where they have an entertaining history of Doc Holliday along with portraits of him and his girlfriend, Big Nose Betty. (Love the name..)

The City has great streetscape and the businesses have fun and interesting storefronts. There is eye catching signage and inviting places for people to stop and take in the sights of the small city. Click on Glenwood Springs to see their town.

One interesting concept is the 3/50 project. ( We saw a sign for it in one of the storefronts in Glenwood Springs.)Their website explains it in detail. The concept is to support your local businesses. "If half the employed population spent $50 each month in locally owned independent businesses, it would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue. For every 100 dollars spent in a locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community... If you spend that in a national chain, only $43 stays local and if you spend it online, nothing comes home. Pick 3... Spend 50. Save your local economy. "
Have fun looking at the pictures of other vibrant cities!!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Traverse City Michigan

Traverse City (click on the preceding two words or the picture to see the slideshow) is located in upper Michigan. For those of you who know the “mitt” example of Michigan, it is just above the pinkie finger. The Boardman River flows through it and it is on the edge of Great Traverse Bay, with rolling hills of wine country just to the north on the Old Mission Peninsula surrounded by the West Arm and East Arm of Traverse Bay.

The city is a tourist destination, with a multitude of water activities and wine country to explore. The 2010 census shows a population of 14, 674 with the metropolitan area population of 142,316. Traverse City claims to be the largest producer of tart cherries in the United States. It holds a Cherry Festival in spring/summer with over 150 events and attracting approximately 500,000 visitors annually.

Traverse City also holds an annual Traverse City Film Festival, founded by filmmaker Michael Moore. The main venue is the historic State Street Theatre, a recently renovated gem in the center of Front Street, the main commercial street in Traverse City. The theater was constructed in 1916 by Julius Steinberg (then the Lyric Theatre) to compliment the Grand Opera House. It has been destroyed by fire twice in its history, but rebuilt in all of its finery. It became the State Theatre in 1949. The theater was donated by the Rotary Charities (see more on them below) to Traverse City Film Festival in 2007. The pictures of the theater show that they did an amazing job of renovation, and some local residents (yes, our friends!) claim the theater renovation is responsible for much of the health of the city. The ceiling inside the theater, which boasts 2,000 fiber optic lights, is an exact replica of an August sky in Northern Michigan. It was designed by an Astronomy instructor at Northwestern Michigan College. Besides the film festival, they have intensive programming of the theater throughout the year. It shows the local high school’s “away” football games, has 25 cent matinees, and Friday night flicks for $3 or 2 tickets for $5. They have teamed up with two local restaurants for “Dinner and a Movie” for $30. Their advertising is catchy: Two menu items, two drinks, two pieces of pie and admission to the theater for two. Check out their website at

The Traverse City Convention Center and Visitor’s Bureau website shows a large variety of local festivals and events.

Traverse City’s downtown runs along Front Street between Boardman and Pine Streets, four long blocks. The area is lively and caters to both local residents and tourists. The features the city has incorporated (which you can see in the slideshow) are: clear, distinctive signage, inviting streetscape with brick pavers incorporated n the sidewalks and “bulb-out” to allow for seating areas within the downtown. Many stores also provide outdoor seating and restaurants have incorporated outdoor dining: or the next best with large screen windows on the sidewalk facing edges. They have decorative lighting, benches, all of the amenities that help make visiting Traverse City a pleasant experience.

The window displays are done with artistic flair, and although my pictures aren’t great, you can get an idea. (It was a bright, sunny day and I had a very difficult time getting good pictures without reflections in the windows.)

Through Grand Traverse County, the Traverse City area started brownfield projects about ten years ago, with almost all of the renewal of these areas coming from $27 million of brownfield redevelopment programs. The program is set up similarly to Oregon’s urban renewal program: the projects are funded out of the tax increment coming from the increased taxes on the projects. However, they collect on both state and local taxes to support the development. After the developer has been repaid for eligible activities, the redevelopment agency can collect the taxes for an additional 5 years. One of the pictures in the slideshow is of the new five-story mixed-use project developed with $1.8 million of assistance from the brownfield program. The building is expected to generate $20 million in investment and create 60 jobs. The site had been vacant and idle for over 9 years, and now brings vitality to a major corner in the downtown area. You can see other projects done in the Traverse City area at this link:

If you are looking for a fun place in the mid-west to visit, try Traverse City!

Note: Rotary Charities had net assets at the beginning of FY 2010 of $33Million. These funds (I was told) are from property they owned which had oil and gas revenue...According to their financial summary, they planned to give $1.5 Million in grants in FY 2010.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Historic Willamette District in West Linn

Some cities have a great supply of historic buildings and others have to create their downtown, or fill in where buildings have been demolished or just didn't exist. In the Willamette District of West Linn, they have a bit of both. They have a small historic district and have added the "historic feel" to the zoning and overlay standards in their Community Development Code, creating new development which you can see by clicking on Willamette District. There are blocks of "new" development, all done in the context of the historic area, fitting in with the "feel" of the entire district.
Many cities wonder how to monitor the development of new buildings within their historic downtown or neighborhood commercial centers. West Linn has done that extremely well. (See Chapter 25 of their Community Development Code for the overlay criteria for the Historic District. There is also an overlay for the Willamette Falls Drive Area.)
The Willamette District is also an "exploring Main Street" in the State of Oregon's Main Street Program.
The Willamette District has angled parking, protected from traffic by landscape barriers and a row of parallel parking. They have incorporated abundant planters and small, pocket parks for gathering in the district. They have outdoor dining areas, which enliven the street and provide additional visits to the retail stores. There are historic single family homes which have been converted to commercial uses, adding to the interesting look of the area.
If you visit, don't miss the great restaurants, the Holly Hill Quilt Shoppe, Lavendar Bleu Gift Shop and Tea Room, West Linn Farmer's Market on Tuesdays and the garden shop on the south west end of the district. (some great pics of it in the slideshow)
According to a planner in West Linn, Sara, the development occurred without subsidy and most of the developers are local. The City used Community Development Block Grant funds for the streetscape features when that funding was available. The City maintains the planters through the Parks Department.
If you haven't visited the historic Willamette Area in West Linn, it is worth it. You will gather a lot of creative ideas on how to "create" more downtown to go with your existing downtown core.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Streetscape and mini parks in Grand Junction Colorado

I was in Grand Junction Colorado last weekend, where they have just finished a two year renovation of the streetscape in their downtown. We were there for a wedding and stayed in a hotel which is on the west end of their Main Street. All of the wedding guests were impressed with the quality of the improvements in the downtown.

The things that really stood out are the use of mini-parks and place-making areas throughout the downtown. They have designed the parks to fit within the flow of the streetscape, locating kid spaces effectively next to restaurant outdoor seating to allow parents to eat while watching their kids play. Some of the parks have built in shading to help protect from the summer heat... that wouldn't be all that useful in most of northern Oregon, but would work well in Southern and Eastern Oregon. There is plenty of space for all of the restaurants on Main Street to provide for outdoor dining, some with larger spaces than others. The restaurants lease the space from the City. One of the restaurateurs told me that in nice weather there will be people waiting in line for the outdoor dining spaces while there is plenty of space indoors.

The City also has a long-standing public art program, with over 100 pieces of outdoor art. The program was established in 1984 by local area sculptors. They display only a portion of their collection at any time and 3/4 of the collection consists of permanent sculpture and the remainder of the exhibit is the annual temporary show. Each year one of the temporary pieces is selected by the citizens as the piece to purchase and add to the permanent exhibit. Not all of it is placed yet in the new streetscape, but you will see many examples in the pictures.

Some of the cities I work with have been interested in the idea of angled parking to provide more parking in their downtown. Grand Junction has used angled parking throughout the downtown, with a safe-harbor pull out area which is not in the travel lane. Obviously, you can only do this if you have exceptionally wide streets, but it provides the safety that everyone worries about with angled parking.

Grand Junction has added variety to their streetscape with different shapes for planters and small brick curved seating areas, providing for a fun feel in the downtown. Browse the pictures on the link to see some examples of an extremely inviting downtown.

And yes, this was all accomplished through financing from urban renewal. Colorado's urban renewal is composed of both property taxes and sales tax revenue collected in the area. I am still researching more on their statutory requirements.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Sonoma California

Just finished a luxurious vacation to Sonoma. Sonoma is organized around a beautiful central plaza, the largest plaza in California at 8 acres. The plaza has separate "rooms" for making more intimate areas within the larger area. There is an historic building reconfigured for bathrooms and glorious rose gardens surrounding it. In the center is the historic city hall, designed with four identical sides to make the same pleasing face to merchants on all sides. Parallel parking is used around the plaza in order to increase the parking opportunities.

The plaza is surrounded by a combination of historic buildings and other buildings designed to fit within the area. The retail uses front directly onto the sidewalk, making a cozy pedestrian environment. There is still plenty of space for seating and sidewalk dining along with lush plantings throughout the area. The storefronts are filled with inviting displays, luring the shopper inside. The most intriguing were the uses of recycled objects to make either clothing or art (a picture of maps made into a dress is shown above, see others at the end of the slide show, don't miss it. To get to the slide show, click on Sonoma at the beginning of the post and start the slide show.) At the end of the slide show, there are pictures of another fun city, Healdsburg, also built around a central plaza.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Salt Lake City, Utah

We were in Salt Lake City Utah in March 2011. It was a work day and at 3 pm in the afternoon.. However, notice there is NO ONE on the streets. This is the financial core and there was virtually no retail or residential to be found.

Salt Lake City does have an array of interesting features: art, an historic clock shown above, wide sidewalks, decorative tiles in the sidewalks, historic plaques, signage, lighting. Of course, everything is beautifully clean and notice the planters are encased in granite.

Click on the Salt Lake link to see more pictures.