* At the beginning of the 20th century, Foster Road was Portland’s widest street. Fact.
* The 17-foot wide sidewalks were modeled after Parisian Boulevards. Fact.
When reading the history of Foster-Powell, as stated on the Neighborhood Association’s website, the above facts stand out above the rest. Or at least, they did to me.
So what exactly did our city’s earliest planners have in mind for Foster area neighborhoods? Could it be they were just as ambitious and hopeful as we are today, more than 100 years later? It’s almost disheartening to think we’re just now starting to realize the hopes of the original plan for FoPo. With a quick historical look, however, we’d see that Foster Road wasn’t always a microcosm of general neglect for outer Southeast Portland. Rather, Foster Road had its bustling days and at one time boasted of one of Portland’s first streetcar lines.
Today, it’s almost as if we’re coming full circle. Or even so, maybe reinventing a wheel that once existed. City planners highlight the potential for a future streetcar line down Foster; our sidewalks will someday bring more pedestrians, shoppers, and diners; storefronts will be improved; the bustle will return.
That’s up to us, I suppose. Yes, a large part of our future rests on the city’s ability to fund the Foster Streetscape Plan, which would bring necessary safety and aesthetic improvements. However, we also have the ability to make Foster Road beautiful ourselves. The murals that now dot our neighborhood, for example, are one way this is being accomplished. And there’s always room for more public art. Ditto for storefront improvements and community events, such as Foster Art Night. By just shopping locally, too, we can support our community and bring more energy to Foster Road. Maybe the “Paris of Portland” is stretching it a bit (perhaps the “Paris of Felony Flats” works), but the “bones are there,” as they say,and resources definitely abound for taking on projects as a neighborhood and for the neighborhood. For a quick primer on some of these resources, Neighborhood Notes recently ran an article on how to improve your neighborhood’s business district.
With all this in mind, how are we going to make Foster great? How can we make the changes we seek more community-driven? We’d love to make this a forum for ideas and planning. If you’d like to get more involved, or have thoughts on specific projects the neighborhood can rally around, please make your opinions heard.