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Obsessed With Regional Centers

Jul 26


I’ve previously noted (twice, it turns out) research showing that 60 to 70 percent of all jobs in modern urban areas are outside of downtown or other “regional and town centers.” Just as planners in the 1950s through the 1980s were obsessed with “saving downtowns” some fifty years after downtowns became obsolete, planners today are obsessed with town centers several decades after they were really relevant.

Portland politician and Metro council president David Bragdon says that planners don’t dare leave the development of such town centers to “laissez-faire unpredictability.” So he supports “public investment” because “planning means nothing without investment.”

Yet, as the Oregonian reports, private investment is doing just fine at building a new $250 million town center. The only problem is that this one wasn’t in Metro’s plans, so some people think it should not have been approved.

The real issue is that this center is not a mixed-use development. Some people like living in mixed-use developments, but Portland long ago saturated the demand for it — which is why they have to subsidize it.

This story was previously noted on the Portland Transport blog, written mainly by members of the loyal opposition. However, as the comments on that post indicate, many in the Portland area (including some who also comment on the Antiplanner) are skeptical of Portland’s grandiose plans.

Meanwhile, a member of the Portland city council has a “vision” of streetcars running all over town. Those streetcars will go slower than buses, and occupy more space in the road.

“What would Portland look like if we implemented solutions to global warming and peak oil?” Adams asks. “It would look a lot like Portland circa 1920, a time when the main means of motion were your feet, streetcars and bikes.” Meaning it would look like Portland when mobility, incomes, homeownership rates, and consumer choices were a lot lower than today. That is supposed to be good?


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