Revisiting Portland, Thinking of Detroit Regionalism

Revisiting Portland, Thinking of Detroit Regionalism is an interesting perspective on the history of the Portland and the use of the Urban Growth Boundary in the Metro area. Having lived and worked in the Portland Metro Area for several years in the 1990s and returned recently on many occasions to attend the Sustainability Leadership Program there, I think the author makes some compelling arguments.

Portland looks better than ever. There are more shops open. More buildings of all shapes and sizes are in various states of rehabilitation, including the recently completed Portland Armory project, a new performing arts space in an iconic 1890s former armory. Despite the economic slowdown (felt even in Portland), there’s been lots of good new construction on an intimate, urban scale. Two and three story buildings (re)sprout on lots where residential uses find themselves above small commercial spaces, selling everything from organic carrots to coffee, to comic books to childcare. Strip malls need not apply.

One of the more mundane things I enjoyed while in Portland was catching a few movies at one of several first run theaters downtown. The film that struck me more than brooding Gotham’s Dark Knight — yes, Heath Ledger’s awesome — was the documentary, Man on Wire, a film about a Frenchman who decides to tightrope walk between the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York. The story of Phillipe Petit’s “coup”, as he and his accomplices plan the extraordinary feat, is a real joy to watch.

So what does Man on Wire have to do with Detroit or regionalism? Well, two things. For one, it reminded me of how the rest of the world views us. In the film, there are a couple of scenes depicting Phillipe and his crew shuttling between France and the United States before the walk. The outline of an airplane moves over a world map with a trailing line representing the journey. Remember the technique used in the Indiana Jones movies to trace Indy’s route of adventure? It was sort of like that.

Read more from Francis Grunow and Metromode here.

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Filed under Change Management and Leadership, Mobile Society, Other, Sustainability

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