Eliot’s 1993 Plan

Eliot Plan Map 1993
Urban Design Concept Plan from 1993 Eliot Plan p.40

The Eliot Neighborhood Plan is going to be updated after 22 years.  Last time it was completed, Eliot was scheduled to get a water taxi stop.  What does the future hold for our piece of shoreline on the Willamette River now?

In 1993, Portland City Council approved and officially adopted the Eliot Neighborhood Plan, a document that was the result of a series of discussions, focus groups, and years of work involving Eliot residents that began in 1988. It was an attempt to chart the course of the future of the neighborhood.  Eliot’s plan was directly based on the Albina Plan, which in turn was based on the Eliot and Boise neighborhoods in particular – but had ultimately been more generalized to the entire city.  Today, the city is working through approving the Central City Plan for 2035, and Eliot residents are sitting down to update our neighborhood plan. We would do well to remember what became of the 1992-1994 era in plans, including our own.

The first thing that stands out when you sit down to read the plan is that it was printed on recycled paper.  So rapid has been the pace of changing technology that you are much more likely to read it on a tablet or other LCD screen now.  And look at those names!  Look at the names of neighbors past, some still present, who worked on the plan.  They are:

  • Susan Hartnett
  • Susan Bailey
  • John Bartels
  • Pauline Bradford
  • Peter Fry
  • Larry Hill
  • Roslyn Hill
  • George Lampus
  • Howard Loucks
  • Tom Loughan
  • Michael Matteucci
  • Ruth Miller
  • Lee Perlman
  • Steve Rogers
  • Jan Shea
  • Ted Wainright
  • Eric Wentland
  • Dennis Walker

The Eliot Neighborhood Plan is a delightful read, and sometimes sad.  We are freshly reminded of the people and places we have forever lost.

Eliot’s Future: A Vision
In the future Eliot will be a neighborhood of individuals and families who share a sense of community.  They will enjoy living in Eliot and will feel that it is a good place to put down roots and a secure place to live, work and enjoy life.  Eliot will also be a lively and active neighborhood providing a setting for commerce, recreation, employment and education throughout the day, week and year.

The things that did not happen from the plan stand out the most.  MLK is still full of empty and unused lots and only some new buildings have been built.  This, despite developers’ claims that our actual historic houses – the ones we were supposed to be saving and restoring with careful planning – have to be demolished so two houses can be built, or else we can’t increase density.  And while a developer is trying to force six stories’ worth of apartments into the middle of a single-family historic neighborhood.  Yes, our planning has definitely been lacking, but it was not for lack of hard work by Eliot residents.

Three and four-story housing units were to line Broadway at the southern edge.  Instead, today there are many empty lots, parking lots, car lots and gas stations.  Almost no housing nor other structures have been built.  Since most of the buildings are historic, it’s more likely that we lost more structures than we gained.  One near loss was the large historic foursquare house at 612 NE Broadway, which local preservationist Mike Warwick saved by moving.

Northern Eliot is the neighborhood’s soul.  It is bounded by Fremont on the north and Russell on the south, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to the east and Williams Avenue on the west.  The bulk of the district is residential in character although there are institutional uses in the Knott/Russell corridor.  Churches are scattered throughout the area.  Most of this district is located within a historic district that has effectively fostered the preservation and restoration of many of the area’s Craftsman and Victorian (Queen Anne) homes.

The document features a photo of Morning Star Baptist Church, mentioning that it is on the National Register of Historic Places, and stating that it helps define Eliot’s historic character.  Sadly, Morning Star Baptist Church burned down in 2007.

Then there is the whimsy – whimsy that was clearly quite serious business in 1988-1993 while this plan was being formulated – that is Eliot’s water taxi.

Fishing Pier
An artist’s take on the proposed fishing pier

Yes, we were to have a water taxi stop.  This taxi stop was to be on the Willamette River’s water taxi system.  It would have been accessed by a public dock – yes, we were going to have a public dock! – accessible to all of Eliot and North/Northeast Portland.  It was to be a fishing pier.

By Sara Long