FoPo’s Parisian Roots

* 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.

But how did we lose sight of that original promise, and how do we ensure its 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.

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16 Responses to FoPo’s Parisian Roots

  1. Aaron says:

    Let’s build an Arc de Triomphe across Foster. That’ll help slow down traffic, too. And we can put a tomb of the unknown hipster below it. If cost is an issue the Arc can be at Spinal Tap Stonehenge scale. In which case it should just be on a traffic island in the center.

  2. Devon says:

    Funny you say that about the arch. I believe the foster streetscape blue prints, show an arch across Foster at 65th. In fact I am sure I saw it on the blue print. 65th and Foster is considered the heart of foster in the blue prints and I believe the arch was suppose to be metal.

  3. David says:

    I’d love to see pedestrian islands down the center of Foster with trees, like was done on MLK and Woodstock.

  4. Aaron says:

    More trees would indeed change everything for the better.

  5. Tamra says:

    Thanks Jeffrey, it all starts with a vision, and you certainly got the collective neighborhood wheels a spinning! As I understand it, any potential funding and larger projects are a couple of years out. With the neighborhood board elections soon approaching, neighbors could nominate themselves as new board members at large and head up committees to bring volunteers, artists, and visionaries together to see what the folks of FoPo can accomplish with a little grassroots action! As I understand it, committees can work outside of the Neighborhood Association meetings (headed up by a board member at large), brainstorm by email, and have more informal get togethers, a kind of “think outside the box” setting. I’m a believer in the FoPo pride and creative energy, let’s remind the Foster commuters they are traveling through a neighborhood!

  6. Jeremy Trabue says:

    I encourage more taking our pet lobsters out for long walks.


  7. ronitphoto says:

    This blog is already a great response to neighborhood pride, along with Foster Art Nights. But what about including members of the community in the conversation who may not have online access, or for whom reading and writing English is difficult? Tamra’s suggestion of more informal get togethers would be a great way of reaching out to these folks.

    I also find it interesting that in the many years I’ve lived in Portland, “outer” Southeast keeps on getting closer and closer in. It’s relative to everyone’s experience, but I always considered outer Southeast to start around 122nd. Same with Felony Flats – historically, it was Lents and Brentwood Darlington, but through the years (and ironically as those neighborhoods improved), newcomers started referring Foster and Mt. Scott as FF too. The words we choose to describe our neighborhood can foster pride as well.

    • Unfortunately, our blog relies mostly on participation over the internet. We’re trying to incorporate more meet-ups and events, so this is one way more people in the community can come together. We’ll have to depend on our readers to reach out to their neighbors in order to get more people involved.

      The Neighborhood Association, also, strives to be more representative. I know they usually send out fliers for their events, and most have Vietnamese, Russian, and Spanish translations.

      We have a great diversity in this neighborhood, and it would be a blessing to have everyone involved.

    • E45Dodge says:

      I too find it interesting where the border of Portland is perceived. If you look on the maps the border appears to be around SE 162/ SE 174th depend on how far North or South you look. And for mailing addresses they are labeled as Portland. It is getting really fuzzy now with Rockwood and Rosewood getting more established.

    • e34dodge says:

      On maps the border is around SE 162 ave / SE 174th ave depending on how far North or South you look. And out addresses say Portland.

  8. Devon says:

    I do like the daily articles written here too, but this quote in the article really made me upset. “perhaps the “Paris of Felony Flats” works”.

    No other inner-city Portland neighbourhood has had a name this negative attached to it, though there were other inner Portland areas that were way worse than this neighbourhood could ever be. People in our neighbourhood boycotted the Portland Tribune when they wrote an article about this neighbourhood in 2004 or 05 calling it Felony Flats. Some of my neighbours (myself included), still will not pick up a copy of the Tribune, even today. Past nicknames do hurt this neighbourhoods image.

    Good articles here, just dislike the usage of the word FF for our neighbourhood in articles used in the blog.

    • Devon,

      I can understand your frustration over the Felony Flats moniker. I think it’s so easily tossed around these days because we’ve transcended that identity, and now can laugh at the stereotypes and mischaracterizations. If we’ve offended, our apologies. We like to speak in jest sometimes, and taking ownership of a previously derogatory nickname is one way we do that.

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. It’s great to have so many people leaving comments and engaging with each other.

  9. Pingback: FoPo’s Parisian Roots: April 2012 - Foster United

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