Portland’s streetcar architecture — past becomes future

Fred Leeson brings us this story about how some of the tenets of New Urbanism really aren’t that new.  The buildings going up on Portland‘s east side have ground-level retail and condos or apartments on higher stories are refered to as “mixed-use” by contemporary planners, but urban historians and old people refer to them as “streetcar architecture.”  This is the way they built things before car dominance, and now it’s coming back.  Building for the streetcar and adding tracks makes it so that you can live closer into the city without owning a car.  The article does cite some critics of this type of development, but I don’t give it much credit (first of all, it’s from the Cato Institute, and second of all, Portlanders love their city and how it works, and I would think they know best).  The article also mentions that people prefer to live in condo buildings that are in the 3-5 story range as opposed to high rises because they feel like they have more say in what happens with their building.  There have been some issues as far as building new buildings that respect the old fabric of the community.  Most developers are building slightly taller, which fits with the city’s goals of being energy efficient, but don’t compliment the existing neighborhood the way they could.  The new, more streetcar-friendly administration means good news for cities that want to improve their public transit like Portland.


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