Over the past 14 months, a large group of citizens have spent 20-60 hours each planning and discussing the future of North Williams Avenue. This is a major thoroughfare through Eliot and inner North and Northeast Portland for people riding the bus, walking, bicycling and driving in motor vehicles. The street has historically been home to a dense urban neighborhood and is becoming that once again. In the interim, urban renewal projects and highway construction projects have demolished buildings on the street, displacing many residences and community businesses. Members of the community have spent significant time and energy rethinking the neighborhood with several key goals: encouraging a full-service grocery store, more employment centers for neighborhood residents and dense residential development to replace lost housing. In the coming period of housing and commercial development along N. Williams Avenue we are seeing many of these goals achieved.
The City of Portland has planned for denser commercial and residential districts all over town. Existing zoning around the City allows for enough new density for 100 years of growth. Which of that land will get developed first and where does our neighborhood rank? Our current understanding is that development follows development. So, when I walk down my street and see the Albert apartments at Beech and Williams going up I know that nearby properties are more likely to get developed in the near future. There have been proposals for 300-500 new housing units in the area and a New Seasons Market at Freemont and Williams. These projects are separate but they will each benefit from the presence of the others. My hope is that the neighborhood will also benefit from these developments. With the New Seasons set to open next year, we are finally getting a full-service grocery store within walking distance of North Eliot. More shops, apartments and some houses are coming and with that, more residents. More bicycle owners, car owners, more people on foot and more TriMet patrons are all in the future of North Williams.
How will the neighborhood evolve? Will residents or developers define the future of the Vancouver/Williams corridor? Will young people from around the country come to live here or will this be a place where folks who grew up here stay? These questions are pieces of ongoing conversations that started as a part of the Bureau of Transportation’s outreach on the North Williams Project. I have met a lot of neighbors that want life to improve for everyone without forcing out the existing residents. The vision of the last 20 years is still alive with this collection of involved citizens. As a community, we want to live in a walking neighborhood within short bicycling distance of downtown, and we want to be able to easily drive when it is raining or we’re just not feeling like getting exercise. We want to live in an area where people of all ages can go about their lives comfortably and safely. We want to live in a place where everyone is treated with respect. We want to see that respect on Williams Avenue.