• matthb

    When I was there late last year their downtown Whole Foods was no more busy (perhaps less so) than Culinaria at a similar time and day.

  • Stlplanr

    Portland did demolish an expressway along its riverfront.  Now, there’s something St. Louis needs to learn.

    Even Midwestern Milwaukee has demolished an expressway.  Their former Mayor and CNU member, John Norquist, has said cities without congestion are dead cities.  Detroit has little congestion.

    I think St. Louis could learn from Detroit’s mistakes (or Portland’s and Milwaukee’s successes) and remove some freeway miles downtown.

  • Randy V.

    Scott Jones hit the nail on the head.  It’s easy to point to Portland (and other similar, “healthy” cities) as an example STL should emulate, but to me that’s a big naive.  St. Louis was a HUGE city when Portland was little more than a mere piss stop.  The two cities have such extremely different dynamics, we may as well compare Kalamazoo to Kuala Lumpur.  It would be great to see St. Louis live up to its potential, but it’s unfair to expect that it can simply adopt the practices of a much younger city with a completely different set of economic, political, historical, developmental, geographical, social and demographic circumstances by changing the mentality of its people and its leaders.  It’s not so easy.  I agree that St. Louis is better served by looking to cities such as Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington, DC and Chicago, which have all experienced similar patterns of growth and decline.  I also don’t think there is any credible measure of what kind of urban area is “better” than another.  St. Louis is an awesome urban area in my opinion.

  • marigolds6

    I attended Oregon State’s geography program. Many of the people I went to school with are now directly involved in the Metro regional government, Multnomah County, or City of Portland.
    Quite simply, we are nothing like Portland and cannot be like Portland. Portland has far more social and economic uniformity, a statewide planning system that has been critical to its success, and a thriving natural resources economic sector that is simply not available here and cannot be replaced as readily as manufacturing.

    • Zundo

      St. Louis lacks an academic planning program that can really contribute. 

  • Lone Ranger

    Given the current hype, Alex could replace “Portland” with “Detroit” and make the same point.

  • Stlplanr

    You can always learn something.  Portland usually excels in TOD and bike facilities.  But I think Charlotte may be a better TOD model.  And New York a better model for bike lanes and cycle tracks.  Where St. Louis excels over other cities is historic renovations.

    • Zundo

      Bolder has a pretty sweet bike system as well. I think Denver’s TOD are pretty good as well. Sacramento seems to have done well in that regard too. 

  • Rick

    Portland has it easy compared to St. Louis.

  • Zundo

    I agree and disagree at the same time. Example: Portland actually has a much better light rail system. That in large part is because of their leadership community and their citizen support. In St. Louis, that is largely absent. Thus, trying to implement their system using the same campaign and information strategies will likely be a failure. However, their route planning, station accessibility and just overall planning and design is something that we should strive to achieve and even best. 

    Claiming that it is all or noting in these comparisons is a flawed logic for anyone who follows that process. The same can be said for anyone who thinks that we should only compare ourselves to similar cities. Lessons can be learned from just about everywhere and no one situation is the same, so even our comparables will be different. 

    We can not just pick cities and circumstances that we are comfortable examining. Getting outside of ones comfort zone is a great way to learn, be creative and fuel inspiration! This goes for both successes and failures. 

    A local example of aiming big and seeing the rewards… Slay and many others wanted the Gateway Mall to be St. Louis’ own Millennium Park and as a result (in a round about way) we got City Garden. Not only did we end up with a great design, but we also derived a sound management and budgeting strategy for the park. These practices and strategies first derived in cities that were not very comparable to STL. 

    Sometimes it seems St. Louis is more worried about taking very short baby steps in hope that we can one day walk with no hope of running. Some more successful cities are moving toward walking so they can inevitably run.Some of that is the big vision, some is motivation and the rest is believing in “one’s self”. We need to start working towards all three of these. 

  • RJ

    If your neighbor has a better garden, you don’t decide on principle to grow in the rocky arid mess you’ve been given – you ask about the soil composition, irrigation, the seed mix, and the availability of sun and shade in the more bountiful garden. You can learn to be a better gardener by learning from those that were blessed with better conditions. While there is something to be said about learning on your own, ignoring the universe of available help is just another form of self-injurious behavior.

    Although it’s impossible for this post to be described as disingenuous (I think you need 30 syllables to qualify for that), the logic is certainly irresponsible. Portland has been incredibly open to ideas of regeneration and urban practice – embracing innovation and supporting interventions that enhance quality of life. Portland State University has sent envoys (both governmental and academic) to study Detroit, New Orleans, and Cleveland, and they are accumulating leading national scholars on abandonment, vacancy, and decline. I will be attending this school in September, I don’t defend it blindly, I only believe that they are far more curious of and tuned to the seriousness of ‘our’ decline. No one in this city ever wants to compare us to Detroit or Cleveland, I think we’re satisfied with our mediocre failures and mediocre successes. The middle of nowhere.

    While it is a fiction that Portland should be our inspiration, it is a fiction that it has been without troubles. Large ethnic neighborhoods were obliterated during urban renewal, huge swathes lack effective transit accessibility, they suffer from obsolete infrastructure, and many neighborhoods are food deserts. There are ghettos of underserved whites and persons of color adjacent to  stretches of derelict housing. Even more importantly, many of the leaders in Portland are very aware of the criticism that they lack ethnic diversity – this is one of many reasons why some have started battling back this Creative Class philosophy.  A city of 22 year-old college grads working barista jobs isn’t going to survive for long, and in response they have had serious self-evaluation of this growing under-employment crisis (the #1 metro in US). Additionally, they’ve essentially pioneered the social enterprise and innovative that will serve our cities as more municipal governments fail to provide. Where is the most successful and most replicated deconstruction company in the United States? Portland.

    Every city faces serious problems, some are visceral like those of the Rustbelt. Others are barely visible at the horizon. While St. Louis may not have anything to learn from Portland, the people that want to change cities are heading there to learn. If NextSTL wants to contribute to the discourse of revitalization, maybe the contemporary cohort of neglectful institutions, politicians, agencies, advocates, and community leaders would be a better target.

    Advocates in successful cities feel like development and progress is a common enterprise. In cities like Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis, many still feel alone in their efforts. St. Louis should never model itself on Portland, but this is a city where good ideas are are still met with skepticism. This a city where outsiders encounter immediate suspicion. I guess the upside is this post makes it clear that relocating here from a successful city is a waste of time.

    • Guest

      “If NextSTL wants to contribute to the discourse of revitalization, maybe the…would be a better target.”  You react as if this were an attack on Portland.  It’s not.  Read Alex’ comment.

      • RJ

        I just want to confront this stereotype of Portland – I think the rationale of the post is a continuation of a distressing presumption about the city. Every city has problems, there’s no need for any kind of absolutism when attempting to realize better urban areas.

        • Zundo

          Portland for sure has their share of problems. 

    • GP

      RJ: “the people that want to change cities are heading there [to Portland] to learn”. Not everyone.  Congrats on your acceptance,… but Portland isn’t the only place that someone can go to learn about cities.  

      This is an interesting topic. Of course it is really important to gain perspective from other cities. However, every city is unique, and they have unique strategies to deal with their issues. Portland is often held as a standard by the design community, regardless of whether or not its even relevant to a city like STL. Its annoying. 

      • RJ

        The Portland trope is annoying, but for many reasons. I agree that there are other cities with development expertise – I am only saying this because Portland State has managed to emphasize its urban identity and attract students with interests in bicycling infrastructure, transit, and community and economic development. I didn’t mean to overstate its influence, but I think it is certainly more of a hub for urban studies/planning than other American cities.

  • Held Over

    I’m not seeing anything here.  Am I missing a joke or something?

    • I believe Alex left the post blank to state his point.  “What St. Louis Can Learn from Portland”…

      • Held Over


  • Alex Ihnen

    A little explanation. For those who attend urban design/livable communities conferences, read about urban renewal, etc., Portland, OR is held up as the ideal. They have a streetcar, bike paths, they tore down part of an Interstate. That’s all great, but Portland is overused and misrepresented as an example. Relative to other cities and its reputation, there is very little St. Louis can learn from Portland. It’s a different city, with different geography, different politics, different economics, different environmental hazards, different demographics, different infrastructure…and all drastically different.

    nextSTL is a big fan of learning from other cities and it can be fun to play the wishing game of becoming (adopting ideas from) Portland, Seoul, Madrid, Curitiba’s BRT system, yadda, yadda, yadda… but to do so overlooks more meaningful lessons we can learn from more similar cities (Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, etc. etc. etc.).

    • Jmosbacher

      What about learning from Long Beach, CA?  The city went through a long period of decline, but through public and private reinvestment, it has spurned a renaissance.  It’s now one of the most bike-friendly and ethnically diverse communities in the country – not to mention it’s roughly about the same size as the city of St. Louis (population-wise) 

  • Zundo

    A better question should be who has been to Portland that can comment? Based on the responses here, I would think not many. 

  • Malbrite10

    What does everyone have against Portland, Maine? 😉

  • Scott Jones

    Portland is doing better than St. Louis as an accident of history more so than anything they’re doing right vs what we’re doing wrong.  Simply stated: they were not a large industrial city during the early/mid twentieth century and didn’t have to suffer through all of the related ills caused by de-industrialization and white-flight.  Most of their growth has happened in the past 30 years.

  • Tomasgilso

    Kiener Plaza > Pioneer Courthouse Sq.

  • Nancy Rice

    I think you couldn’t be more correct.  Portland just may be the biggest Urban Legend (read myth) of all!

  • Frank DeGraaf

    I concur.