Neighborhoods in Change

“Buildings and neighborhoods and nations are insinuated into us by life; we are not, as we like to think, independent of them.”-Mindy Thompson Fullilove

Since 2012, the Division corridor has undergone a rapid transformation unparalleled in the recent history of Eastside development and well beyond what was envisioned in the Division Green Street/Main Street Plan.  The area between SE 30th and 50th Avenues has seen the arrival of close to 400 new residential units with accompanying commercial spaces.  On one hand, the street has become a vibrant commercial corridor attracting visitors from other parts of the city and the region.  However, for many long-residents, the dramatic transformation of the corridor represents a tsunami of growth that has been quite traumatic, causing a deep sense of loss for the small, locally-serving, “village-like” atmosphere, special streetcar/main street character, eclectic street identity that has shifted seemingly overnight to serve a higher-end level of business and rental market, making it less affordable to local businesses. This loss of affordability has also impacted the housing rental prices, making the new developments out of reach for many renters and causing concerns about gentrification, increased traffic congestion on traditionally quiet residential streets, parking problems and other impacts such as loss of solar access, privacy and displacement of residents.  Of great concern is that the majority of this private development of eight blocks of the Division corridor is in direct contradiction to broad community concern expressed in the media, in public testimony and in neighborhood surveys responses. With few avenues to help shape the changes occurring all around them, there is a good deal of anger and frustration in the Division community, some of it perhaps masking a sense of grief and loss, even of despair. Citizens have deep connections to their neighborhoods and “psychology of place” is important consideration for planners and designers when areas of our city are experiencing rapid growth and change. Hear more about community members think of the recent changes on Division in the results of the Division Perceptions Survey


Policy Recommendations

With so many key issues on the horizon that impact the future growth of our City and how the buildings being built today will continue to shape the design, function and livability of our neighborhoods, members of the Division Design Initiative are in process on some key recommendations for the new Comprehensive Plan Update (our city’s 20-year growth plan) and the new Mixed Use Zoning Proposal from the City. These have been presented to several neighborhood groups and are informed by recommendations from our policy consultant at Urbsworks.

View Key Policy Recommendations here:

Top 10 Policy Recommendations These overarching policies maintain a no-net density loss goal, and have received formal endorsements from the following leading organizations:

  • Division Clinton Business Association (DCBA)
  • Hawthorne Boulevard Business Association (HBBA)
  • Richmond Neighborhood Association (RNA)
  • Mount Tabor Neighborhood Association (MTNA)
  • Division Design Committee (DDC)
  • Architecture for Humanity

City Response to many neighborhood organizations testifying in support of the DDI Top Ten Policy Recommendations: During City Council work sessions on the Comprehensive Plan, the Council held a special discussion on the DDI Top 10 Policy Recommendations including a matrix with Comp Plan and Mixed Use Zoning responses provided from BPS staff for each of our Top Ten Policies. In response, the Council noted the need to integrate community input into further refinements of design and community engagement in the Comprehensive Plan and later the Mayor and Councilwoman Fritz’s offices asked the DDI organizers to meet with their staff to consider whether there were options to integrate the DDI Top 10 Policies into current and future policy frameworks. We met with Council staff with our design and policy consultant and provided this additional matrix DDI Followup to City Staff Responses on DDI Top 10 Policy Recs.2.17.16. We have asked for additional followup as well.

Background Presentations:

Detailed Recommendations – Specific Recommendations +Talking Points useful for Testimony to City Council & Bureau of Planning & Sustainability:

1 -Comp Plan Update – Draft Recommendations

2- New Mixed Use Zones – Draft Recommendations

Why these recommendations? With the rapid redevelopment of Division from both public investments in the Division Streetscape project and extensive new private large development projects over the span of 18-24 months, the long-standing neighborhood character and identity as well as social fabric of the neighborhood has been significantly altered. This has left many residents without either the policy or political framework to have a voice in the evolution of their neighborhood. This has caused a crisis within the local Division community that some may paint as growth/no growth, density/anti-density. We see this same crisis reflected citywide. In an effort to help shift the dialogue away from complexities that polarize communities when discussing issues of density to the fundamental importance of DESIGN. Ideally, focusing less on where we may be divided towards what we can agree upon as shared goals. Our Top Ten Recommendations are in no way intended to reduce achievement of our density goals, but to foster density with fewer impacts, and better compatibility.

Building a Design Initiative for Division

This grass roots initiative brings a collaboration of neighborhood associations and community representatives together to create a shared vision and tools for action. Through a new inter-neighborhood Division Design Committee process, representative stakeholders will work to engage the surrounding Division Area neighbors and businesses to explore how we can build upon the efforts started as part of the Division Main Street/Greet Street Plan (2006), and make recommendations for how we can address design issues and concerns.

A goal of this effort is to hopefully develop resources that other Portland neighborhoods can use a model for their own, essentially a toolbox for neighborhood design. This might include design guidelines, photos of good/bad development examples, mapping of key sites/special places, special studies, and strategies for community engagement to articulate goals, vision and priorities for new development and community growth that is sensitive to existing character and supports economic growth and vitality.

The Division Design Committee holds regular public meetings every 4th Thursday of the month at SE Uplift, upstairs in the Fireside Room. Please join us!

Want to Learn More? Want to Get Involved?
If you would like more information or want to volunteer, please email: