After just a month-long pilot study, the promenade created on Southeast Ankeny Street between 27th and 28th Avenue has been deemed a success by the business owners there.
What’s being called the 28th Ave Promenade is part of a larger statewide project called Portland Promenades, which is led by community members and business owners who strove to expand seating for businesses to stay at capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic, all while following social distancing guidelines.
The idea behind the promenades is to close down streets where several businesses are located in order to open it up more for pedestrians. The concept is popular in European countries and has also been seen in other states such as Florida, California and Indiana, according to the Portland Promenades website.
Travis Preece, owner of Ankeny Tap & Table and Gorges Brewing, said in a press release that the closure on Southeast Ankeny Street had resulted in business being up over 800% compared to when the pandemic started. He told The Oregonian/OregonLive the promenade has allowed for 108 people to be seated outside.
“While we were confident it would be popular, we were cautious to prepare for the likelihood of crowds,” Preece said. “We took several extra precautions and had multiple trainings, and the result has been a welcoming outdoor environment where guests feel safe…and for a time can feel a sense of ‘normalcy.’”
There is currently a team of neighbors, business owners and neighborhood association members working on opening up all of 28th Avenue to help more than 15 local businesses until their permit expires Nov. 1.
Zach Katz, neighborhood activist, said in the press release their team had been working with the Portland Bureau of Transportation to express that it’s more important to sustain the city’s neighborhoods than make it easy for cars to move through them.
Patricia Earley, owner of Paterson, a vegan restaurant and bar, said without the promenade her business was doomed.
“We opened four months before the pandemic and were just getting our legs,” she said. “And BOOM everything went away.”
She said the restaurant was too small to effectively social distance and make enough money to keep it open, and that the promenade might be the only hope for small businesses on 28th Avenue.
“As Portland learns to live with COVID-19, it is becoming increasingly clear that the virus is not going anywhere soon and we must find creative ways to help our businesses ASAP,” Katz said. “Opening up our streets for businesses is one of the clearest ways that we can provide retail and restaurant space to safely operate.”
Several businesses have joined together to petition the city to approve the 28th Ave Promenade as of June 26, such as Artemisia, Fifty Licks, Base Architecture + Design LLC, Paterson and ZimZim. They proposed that Burnside, Couch and Everett streets remain as cross streets for auto traffic and delivery access. The promenade would be open until Nov. 1 of this year.
The Kerns Neighborhood Association has also expressed general support in the promenade as of July 1, stating it will greatly help local restaurants and businesses increase income and stay in business, among other reasons.
— Ty Vinson