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Portland's Transit Mall earns praise from national planners

Photo Credit: COURTESY TRIMET - A national honor has been bestowed on 5th and 6th avenues on the Portland Transit Mall.Fifth and Sixth avenues on the Portland Transit Mall are being compared to such iconic thoroughfares as Broadway in New York City and Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.

No, really.

The American Planning Association on Wednesday designated downtown Portland's Southwest Fifth and Sixth avenues as one of the 10 Great Streets for 2014, along with Broadway, Pennsylvania Avenue and seven other landmark streets in the country.

The designation was part of the APA's annual Great Places in America program that acknowledges well planned, unique and authentic community assets. The designations are made every October, which is National Community Planning Month.

"Recognizing these special places highlights the role planning plays in adding value to communities," William Anderson, FAICP, president of APA, said in the announcement of the designation. "Planners, working with others, help build better communities in a variety of settings, from urban to rural; the result — better neighborhoods, cities, and regions. We applaud these efforts and congratulate this year’s designees."

According to the APA, the following features contributed to the designation:

• Unique transportation infrastructure: The Portland Transit Mall is a 1.2 mile couplet of one-way streets — Fifth and Sixth avenues that traverse six districts of downtown Portland. The original mall was a transportation project built in 1978 and was arguably the country’s best transit mall for ridership and stimulation of new development.

• Multiple transportation options: All five of the region’s light-rail lines as well as the busiest, frequent service bus routes, converge at the mall, making connections to any point in the Portland area.

• Neighborhood revitalization: When the revitalized mall opened in 2009, 40 storefronts had been renovated, two hotels were built and several institutional projects were constructed which represented $1.5 billion in private investment along the transit mall.

The American Planning Association is a nation group that provides leadership in community development. For more information, check www.planning.org/ncpm.

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