September 6, 2013

Two firms draw up alternative visions for Portland plaza

However, the city has not solicited any alternative visions for Congress Square Plaza.

By Randy Billings
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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A view of Congress Square from Canal 5 Studio, the architects who are formally working with Rockbridge to develop a new event space adjacent to the hotel, shows narrower streets, outdoor cafe tables and a 2-way High Street.

Canal 5 Studio

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PRESENT Architecture, a New York City firm, has sketched a concept for Congress Square Park that would place a new event space and gallery below terraced lawns and outdoor seating.

PRESENT Architecture

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Tremblay, 32, recently reworked that design to reduce the cost and account for elements of Rockbridge's proposal that he believes have public support.

For example, Tremblay envisions the new event center being built on top of the existing single-story building. The center would be accessed by a new glass entrance in the far corner of the park, which would be topped by the Union Station clock that now sits on a different piece of the park.

The surface of the park would consist of a grassy area and brick pavers that would create a cut-through path from Congress to High Street. A large chessboard, or other form of public activity area, would also be incorporated, as would art and a fountain.

It also envisions using a shipping container for a retail use or an informational kiosk, and retains the outdoor restaurant seating.

The new design also converts all of Congress Square -- the intersection of Congress, High and Free streets and adjoining sidewalks -- into a "woonerf," a Dutch term that means living street where bikes and pedestrians have the legal right of way over vehicles. The woonerf was included in Rockbridge's vision for the square as a way to make it more of a gateway and more bike and pedestrian friendly.

The city has been negotiating exclusively with Rockbridge about developing the plaza since it bought the Eastland in 2011. At that time, the city had tabled plans to find a firm to redesign the plaza as a public space -- an action that was endorsed by a special committee and had a $50,000 set-aside.

The city has since launched a greater planning effort for Congress Square as a whole that would include a redesign of the plaza -- whether at its current size or smaller, post-development footprint.

Neither Tremblay nor PRESENT was aware of Rockbridge's proposal when they began their proposed redesigns. But now that a council decision seems imminent, their efforts have taken on added urgency.

Tremblay has put out his own call to other designers to offer their ideas about the square and more than a dozen designers have shown interest.

"I don't think it's a lost opportunity," Tremblay said.


Staff Writer Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

Twitter: @randybillings


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Additional Photos

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Clifford Tremblay's proposal for a new Congress Square Park, with a new event space built above the roof of the adjacent hotel wing and kiosks for small businesses.

Clifford Tremblay

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Clifford Tremblay also sketched this earlier proposal for Congress Square shortly after moving to Portland in early 2013. This version did not include provisions for a new event center attached to the hotel.

Clifford Tremblay


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