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City planning -- Oregon -- Portland, Urban beautification -- Oregon -- Portland, Neighborhood planning -- Oregon -- Portland, Urban community development -- Oregon -- Portland


The 'South Auditorium' neighborhood established itself in the days when loggers and other workers filled the district’s hotels due to its proximity to the river. In the wake of the Great Depression and as the logging trade declined, the area began to fall into disrepair and development shifted away from the Willamette River. By the 1950s, many of its 2,000+ inhabitants were low-income or elderly and living in small, poorly maintained apartments, shuffling from one to the next as they were forced out of their prior home. The neighborhood was also extremely diverse, housing numerous immigrant families, particularly Italian, Jewish, Chinese, and African American families.

In 1955, the newly formed Portland Development Commission targeted a block of land in what was then considered part of South Portland as a test of the new Urban Renewal philosophy making the rounds in planning circles, at the behest of the Mayor’s Advisory Committee. It was decided that a 110 acre portion of the district would be razed in two phases.

Interestingly, the district had originally been intended as the home for a new expo center or coliseum, with the remaining redevelopment occurring around it. This center would be just the sort of attraction to lure people to the city center, it was believed; these plans were scrapped, however, after conflicts between interested parties on each side of the Willamette resulted in the centerpiece of the project (later to be Veterans’ Memorial Coliseum) being relocated to the eastern side of the river.

Inspired by the design principles of Le Corbusier and the budgets of major firms such as Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill (SOM), renewal pressed onward, with the forthcoming towers and plazas to be punctuated by greenspaces, among them a set of fountains crafted by Lawrence Halprin. Little, if anything, remains of the district as it had existed prior to the removal of the area’s residences, businesses, and the communities who resided there.

This project was conducted under the supervision of Donald J. Stastny and Edward Starkie.


Created for USP 475/575 Urban Design Workshop.

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