Simon and Helen Director Park

Simon and Helen Director Park is a quintessential people place, a piazza that is adaptable to many uses and users. Surrounded by commerce, movie theaters, hotel, apartments, and the light rail, the park extends across narrowed streets in a curbless cross-section going from building wall to building wall. Designed by OLIN from Philadelphia and local firm Mayer/Reed, Director Park is not so much a green park block as an urban plaza, built on a sloping space atop six stories of underground parking.

Two signature elements define the space: a striking glass-covered canopy, and a semi-circular fountain and seating area. The plaza combines extensive fixed and movable seating, a café, and stormwater plantings.

Originally intended as the midtown section of the Park Blocks -- a long, narrow corridor of consecutive public parks stretching across downtown Portland -- Director Park is another example of smart reclamation of public space, which only helps build a sense of community. It was meant to unite the South Park Blocks, originally donated to the city in 1852, with North Park Blocks, developed in 1869. Instead, six of the original blocks were sold and developed, including South Park Block 5. By the 1990s, the space was a parking lot. Fortunately, Portland’s urban design policy was shifting towards removing all downtown surface parking. In 1998, the city approved a plan to build Director Park and put a parking garage underneath it.

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