July 19th, 2010 | Published in Urbanist
|Urbanist will cover urban innovation from a systems perspective, highlighting the relationships between people and place. Photo: Dustin Eppers/EnzymePDX|
Portland has earned a national reputation for its mix of a lively bike and pedestrian culture, good public transportation and high-density mixed-use development. Yet it is no utopia. We are one of the least diverse cities in the country, our economy is stagnant and we may be losing our competitive edge as a leader of civic innovation.
As Enzyme’s Urbanist reporters, we want Portland to live up to its dreams and reputation as a dense, diverse, sustainable and innovative city. We believe that we’ll never get there by cheerleading alone. So we aim to expose the gaps in the urban fabric and to ferret out the compelling stories about people, places and trends.
We think the most successful cities provide a framework for people and ideas to connect. So instead of covering the classic newspaper beats, we’ll cover urban innovation from a systems perspective, highlighting the relationships between people and place, and the bold ideas (good and bad) shaping our collective future.
It’s a timely journalistic enterprise. Last fall, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability began a three-year effort to create a road map for Portland development over the next 25 years. The goal, said Eden Dabbs, a communications specialist for the Bureau of Planning, is “to move beyond traditional planning silos and look at the natural synergies — all of the issues and forces that make our city tick.”
The so-called Portland Plan, which is a state-mandated update of the city’s 1980 Comprehensive Plan, revolves around nine integrated action areas, including “transportation, technology and access” and “equity, civic engagement and quality of life.” Each action area also includes specific objectives, such as expanding schools as afternoon and evening community centers and creating “20-minute neighborhoods,” where home, work and shopping are all within a short walk.
The common theme, said Dabbs, is “leveraging finite resources for the greatest gain.”
At Urbanist, we are journalists, not planners. But the evolving Portland Plan is a good model — and metaphor — for our approach. We aim to cover a range of urban issues — including mobility, education, real estate and green energy — but in a holistic fashion. For example, we might run a story about Portland’s high school redesign, but focus on the link between school closings and increased vehicle emissions, especially in low-income and minority communities.
Regardless of subject matter, our reportorial mission is animated by the same question guiding the Portland Plan process — a framework that Larry Wallack, dean of Portland State University’s College of Urban and Public Affairs, neatly summarized for us: “How do you incorporate all the different factors into a vision of what Portland should be?”
Please join the Urbanist team for twice-weekly updates and monthly photo essays from around the city.