Portland’s Share-It-Square

What can people do, when they live in an anonymous, dull neighbourhood which is dominated by a boring street grid with no public space to participate? In Portland, Oregon residents of such a district solved this problem head-on by seizing some crossings. Not by blocking, but by painting them and using them as public space. They called it Share-It-Square. Since then it has been a positive development in many ways for the neighbourhood.

 

“That’s public space. Nobody can use it.”
At first, the residents had no backing from the city for any self-made projects in public space. In 1996, when they built a teahouse at one corner in the neighbourhood, the city ordered it demolished, as it did not meet codes. A remarkable statement of one commissioner on this topic was: “That’s public space. Nobody can use it.” The neighbours decided to invite the officials for tea. After this meeting, the officials realised that this kind of initiative was the sort of citizen initiatives they had been trying to create with expensive programs for decades. An ordinance, called “Intersection Repair” was passed to encourage citizens for such initiatives. With the help of the organisation “City Repair”, residents are now able to design their own neighbourhood crossings with creative public spaces.

Minor ordinance, wide impact
The “Intersection Repair”- ordinance, which causes the city of Portland nearly no expenses, had quite an impact on the neighbourhood. After Students made a survey with more than 700 interviews, they concluded that residents in such areas are nearly twice as happy with their place, compared to similar but unimproved neighbourhoods. Also, they feel healthier and less depressed. Organizers additionally found out, that residents felt that crime has decreased, traffic had slowed and communication had improved. And, of course, it looks more exciting!