How Radically Will Growth and Change Transform Portland?

A three-part series of live events features the heavy hitters shaping our future cityscape. Think: an upsized soccer stadium, a rebooted airport, and plenty of traffic to manage.

By Catherine Johnson March 12, 2018

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Change is on the horizon.

For many Portlanders, “change” has become a four-letter word. New buildings. More cars. Rising prices. Mainstream and social media tend to address these issues one project or controversy at a time, and media fragmentation makes it progressively harder to sort opinion from fact. Starting tonight, March 12, a three-part series of onstage events aims to showcase the people, ideas, and trends actually shaping our built environment on a grander, deeper scale.

One City/Many Futures: The Portland We Are Making takes over the Gerding Theater each of the next three Monday nights with programs curated by Randy Gragg, veteran local journalist (and former editor in chief of Portland Monthly). The event reboots Gragg's long-running Bright Lights series, and precedes April's Design Week Portland. Onstage, a spectrum of possible Portlands: how city officials, developers, architects, and community activists envision the future of where we live, work, and play. Each evening will focus on a specific area of growth—from architecture to transportation to green spaces and the environment—illustrated by visuals that offer a show-and-tell of plans and projects.

Tonight's debut "episode" showcases several major moves and big-picture attempts to shape the cityscape, with perspective ranging from Kimberly Branam of urban renewal agency Prosper Portland to Mustapha Finney of the East Portland Action Plan. Allied Works Architecture will preview its makeover of the Portland Timbers' home; Joy Alise Davis of the Portland African American Leadership Forum lends perspective on that alliance's "People's Plan."  

March 19's program delves into transportation, with appearances by city transportation director Leah Treat and Port of Portland director Curtis Robinhold, among others, and an examination of the Rose Quarter's future. March 26's third installment takes a green bent, with a focus on parks and sustainable infrastructure.

Participants are discouraged from using the words “equity,” “diversity” and “sustainability” without a concrete vision of how those concepts are put into practice. "We tend to throw those words around as goals, but how is it really operating on the ground?” asks Gragg.

The conversation won’t end there. A fourth evening is in the works for April dedicated solely to landscape and architecture. In addition, One City: Many Futures is part of Design Week’s push into year-round programing. “There’s a lot of angst in the air about the direction of Portland because so much change is happening so quickly,” Gragg says. “This is an opportunity to hear what the strategy is.” And perhaps an answer to the oft-repeated question: “Is the city building itself?”

One City/Many Futures

6 pm Mon., Mar 12, 19, and 21, Gerding Theater. $5–20, students free

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