Pioneer Courthouse Square

Known locally as "Portland's Living Room," Pioneer Courthouse Square is a meeting place for the city’s diverse cultures and a dramatic symbol of Portland’s dedication to a vibrant downtown. It's a place of pride where locals take guests, socialize, and lounge; where you can feel like you are in someone’s home and a member of the family. 

It wasn't always this way. The site was originally home from 1883 to 1953 of the Portland Hotel, which was demolished to make way for the Meier and Frank Department store parking lot. Plans to transform the block into a public space began after the city rejected a proposal to build a new 11-story parking garage. The square later became a central piece of the city’s 1972 innovative Downtown Plan. 

The goal was to create a grand civic space at the heart of downtown that was also connected to the development of a light rail system and a transit mall, all part of the city’s urban vision. An international design competition chose the architect Will Martin along with landscape architect Doug Macy. Their bold design is a 40,000-square-foot brick town square reminiscent of both an Italian piazza and a Greek agora. An upper terrace, belvedere, and the square’s signature element -- a grand crescent combination amphitheater, stairs, and ramp -- frame the broad floor of the square. Enclosed by the Pioneer Courthouse, department stores, and hotels, it's a truly multipurpose space that enhances community sustainability. 

Thirty years after its dedication, Pioneer Courthouse Square is a much heralded place. The Project for Public Spaces designated it as one of the best squares and plazas in the world in 2004. In 2008, the square made the American Planning Association's list of “Great Public Spaces in America.” The square hosts almost daily events and is visited by 10 million people a year.

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