‘Foodie city’ cooks up street vi­tal­ity

Cow­town fol­lows in Stump­town’s foot­steps

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - New Condos -

The fol­low­ing is the sec­ond of a twopart se­ries com­par­ing the down­towns of trendy, sus­tain­able Port­land, Ore., and Calgary.

Pre­vi­ously, we looked at how the city cen­tres of Port­land and Calgary stacked up as ur­ban play­grounds with re­spect to bike lanes, path­ways and cul­tural ameni­ties.

While each city had its own strengths and weak­nesses, there was no ob­vi­ous win­ner. This week, we look at pub­lic spa­ces, of­fice, re­tail and hos­pi­tal­ity, as well as street life, which are ar­guably the most im­por­tant fac­tors in cre­at­ing ur­ban vi­tal­ity.

Pub­lic spa­ces

Just out­side down­town Port­land lies the 64-hectare Wash­ing­ton City Park. You could eas­ily spend a day or two ex­plor­ing the Rose Test Gar­den, Ja­panese Gar­den, Hoyt Ar­bore­tum, World Forestry Cen­tre, Port­land Chil­dren’s Mu­seum and Ore­gon Zoo.

Even if Calgary amal­ga­mated the Calgary Zoo/Botan­i­cal Gar­dens, Telus Spark science cen­tre, In­gle­wood Bird Sanc­tu­ary and the Bow River's Harvie Pas­sage, we’d still not have the crit­i­cal mass of Wash­ing­ton City Park.

Port­land has some lovely old lin­ear parks through­out its down­town that have amaz­ing tree canopies. They in­clude South Park Blocks, a 14-block­long park that is home to the Down­town Farm­ers’ Mar­ket.

Its Calgary equiv­a­lents would be Ri­ley Park, with its his­toric cricket field, and the ma­jes­tic Cen­tral Me­mo­rial Park that sur­rounds the Me­mo­rial Park Li­brary.

Port­land’s 15-hectare Tom McCall Wa­ter­front Park, which stretches about three kilo­me­tres along the Wil­lamette River, has sev­eral ac­tiv­ity nodes for fes­ti­vals and events, in­clud­ing the Rose Fes­ti­val mid­way.

In Calgary, Shaw Mil­len­nium Park, Prince’s Is­land, Fort Calgary Park, Eau Claire Prom­e­nade and East Vil­lage River Walk would eas­ily be our equiv­a­lent.

Add in the Peace Bridge, Poppy Plaza, the soon-to-be-com­pleted St. Pa­trick’s Is­land re­de­vel­op­ment with its sig­na­ture bridge, and the Calgary Stam­pede’s plans to cre­ate a new River­front Park along the El­bow River dur­ing the next few years and Calgary might come out ahead of Port­land.

It will be in­ter­est­ing to see how our river­front pub­lic spa­ces get re­de­vel­oped af­ter the re­cent flood. A tremen­dous op­por­tu­nity ex­ists to cre­ate some­thing spec­tac­u­lar as a legacy.

Port­land also is home to two fa­mous con­tem­po­rary foun­tains — Love­joy Foun­tain and the Ira Keller Foun­tain, both in the Cul­tural Dis­trict. Calgary’s an­swer to th­ese would be the wa­ter fea­tures at Cen­tury Gar­dens and McDougall Cen­tre, as well as wad­ing pools at Olympic and Eau Claire Plazas and the more tra­di­tional foun­tains at Cen­tral Me­mo­rial Park.

Port­land’s Pi­o­neer Square is of­ten re­ferred to as its down­town’s “liv­ing room,” the place where ur­ban­ites hang, meet and cel­e­brate. Calgary’s Olympic Plaza shares many of the same fea­tures and de­sign ele­ments, but for some rea­son, it is not as pop­u­lar with Cow­town’s ur­ban­ites.

Per­haps it is be­cause Calgary has the Stephen Av­enue pedes­trian mall, a lin­ear plaza by day which morphs into down­town’s din­ing room at lunch hour in the sum­mer thanks to its many out­door pa­tios and food ven­dors.

Port­land’s Alder Street Food Pod with more than 60 food carts (the largest con­cen­tra­tion of street food in North Amer­ica) is Port­land’s equiv­a­lent.

Pub­lic spa­ces ad­van­tage: tied.

Of­fice/re­tail/ hos­pi­tal­ity dis­tricts

Al­though down­town Port­land is about 20 square kilo­me­tres, its cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict is only about 40 blocks (one square kilo­me­tre). Calgary’s of­fice

Some of the hun­dreds of food carts that bring life to down­town Port­land, Ore. core — from City Hall on the east to 8th Street on the west and from 9th Av­enue on the south to the Bow River on the north — is about 80 blocks, twice the size of Port­land’s.

Un­like Calgary, Port­land has only a few sky­scrapers, adding up to 25.3 mil­lion square feet of of­fice space and 87,588 work­ers com­pared to Calgary’s 40 mil­lion square feet and 160,000 work­ers.

How­ever, Port­land of­fers about 20,000 ho­tel rooms in 37 dif­fer­ent ho­tels com­pared to our 4,000 ho­tel rooms in a dozen ho­tels. This means on any given day, there are prob­a­bly more than 25,000 tourists wan­der­ing down­town Port­land ver­sus Calgary’s 5,000.

Port­land’s Pi­o­neer Place is an up­scale in­door shop­ping mall con­sist­ing of four blocks of re­tail, din­ing (100 stores) park­ing and an of­fice tower. Sig­na­ture retailers in­clude Macy’s, Nord­strom and Nike Port­land. With its six of­fice tow­ers, Calgary’s re­tail com­plex of Holt Ren­frew, The Core, Bankers Hall, Sco­tia Cen­tre, and The Hud­son Bay Co. is about four times that size.

North­east of Port­land’s down­town, across the Wil­lamette River in the Lloyd Dis­trict, sits the city’s mas­sive con­ven­tion cen­tre. Its one mil­lion square feet of ex­hi­bi­tion and meet­ing space is al­most three times the size of Calgary Telus Con­ven­tion Cen­tre and Calgary Stam­pede BMO Cen­tre com­bined.

Next to it are two are­nas — the Rose Gar­den (home of the Port­land Trail Blaz­ers) and Me­mo­rial Coliseum. The dis­trict also in­cludes a few of­fice build­ings, ho­tels and Lloyd Cen­tre, a shop­ping mall with an­other Macy’s and Nord­strom, as well as a Sears and Mar­shalls.

If we com­bined the Calgary Stam­pede Grounds with North Hill Cen­tre, Calgary would still come up short.

Of­fice/re­tail/hos­pi­tal­ity ad­van­tage: tied.

Ur­ban de­sign /re­newal

Ar­chi­tec­turally, Port­land has noth­ing to match Calgary’s iconic con­tem­po­rary of­fice tow­ers — Bankers Hall, Cen­ten­nial Place, Eighth Av­enue Place, Nexen, Suncor or The Bow. Nor do any of Port­land’s new con­dos chal­lenge the avant-garde de­signs of Ar­riva, Alura, Colours, Nuera, Sasso and Vetro.

While Port­land has many great early 20th-cen­tury build­ings scat­tered through­out its down­town, there is not a con­tigu­ous his­toric street like Calgary’s Stephen Av­enue or At­lantic Av­enue in In­gle­wood.

From an ur­ban re­newal per­spec­tive, the Pearl Dis­trict (now home of k.d. lang) is 10 years ahead of East Vil­lage and has a huge ad­van­tage thanks to nu­mer­ous older build­ings, adding im­me­di­ate charm and char­ac­ter to the neigh­bour­hood.

How­ever, out­side of the Pearl Dis­trict, ev­i­dence of new condo con­struc­tion and in­fill hous­ing is al­most non-ex­is­tent.

The in­ter­na­tional ur­ban plan­ning com­mu­nity un­der-ap­pre­ci­ates the di­ver­sity and den­sity of ur­ban liv­ing op­tions in down­town Calgary, which in­cludes new sin­gle-fam­ily homes, du­plexes, town homes, mid-rise and high­rise con­dos.

Calgary is a leader in ur­ban re­newal for cities its size. The in­fill de­vel­op­ments in Belt­line, Bridge­land, Cur­rie Bar­racks, East Vil­lage, Kens­ing­ton, Marda Loop, Univer­sity City and all in­ner-city com­mu­ni­ties are un­matched in North Amer­ica.

Ur­ban de­sign/re­newal ad­van­tage: Calgary.

Street scene

Port­land is per­haps best known for its food carts found al­most every­where; there are over 700 of them.

They are not food trucks (a com­mon mis­con­cep­tion) as much as they are per­ma­nently parked food out­lets lo­cated in park­ing lots in the down­town or in empty lots through­out the city. Most of­ten, there are sev­eral lo­cated to­gether in what is called a “pod” — a bit like an out­door food court.

While not al­ways the most at­trac­tive (some pods look like shanty towns), most are quite ap­peal­ing thanks to pic­nic ta­bles, tents and beer gar­dens, as well as pot­ted trees and flow­ers.

And there seems no limit as to what food they can serve, with great names like Euro­Trash, Big Egg, Koi Fu­sion and Pyro Pizza.

Port­land’s food carts have be­come so fa­mous in­ter­na­tion­ally that lo­cal en­tre­pre­neur

C MFor more pho­tos and Richard White’s first col­umn in this se­ries, visit our web­site un­der the head­ing: ‘More News and Views.’ Down­town Cul­tural Dis­trict Univer­sity Dis­trict Pearl Dis­trict NW Dis­trict Old Town/Chi­na­town Wa­ter­front Park Lloyd Dis­trict Cen­tral East­side Al­berta Street Arts Dis­trict Hawthorne Boule­vard Brett Burmeis­ter has cre­ated a busi­ness con­duct­ing lunchtime tours, as­sist­ing event plan­ners and land de­vel­op­ers on cart man­age­ment and speak­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally at food con­fer­ences (visit the web­site at food­cart­sport­land.com).

Calgary’s 50-plus food trucks just don’t cut it.

Street shop­ping in Port­land’s core is mainly along 23rd Av­enue in the North­west Dis­trict (think Kens­ing­ton in Calgary) along Mor­ri­son and Yamill Streets (think Stephen Av­enue) and along 10th and 11th Av­enues of the Pearl Dis­trict (think 17th and 11th Av­enues).

Port­land’s street shop­ping in­cludes Pot­tery Barn, Restora­tion Hard­ware, West Elm and sev­eral other trendy retailers — the likes of which you can’t find in down­town Calgary. An­other bonus for Port­land is that shop­ping is tax-free.

Also worth not­ing, Port­land has two in­ter­est­ing shop­ping streets out­side its down­town — Al­berta Street and Hawthorne Boule­vard. Both are about 15 blocks long and full of in­ter­est­ing lo­cal shops.

Al­berta Street has sev­eral in­die art gal­leries (hence the name Al­berta Arts Dis­trict) Down­town* Olympic Plaza Cul­tural Dis­trict SAIT Polytech­nic/Al­berta Col­lege of Art and De­sign East Vil­lage Kens­ing­ton and Hawthorne Boule­vard — which could be branded as the Vin­tage Vil­lage — is noted for its col­lec­tion of vin­tage cloth­ing, fur­ni­ture and home ac­ces­sory stores.

Both streets of­fer a good day of ex­plor­ing on foot. In Calgary, the only thing that comes close to in scale and size is In­ter­na­tional Av­enue (17th Av­enue S.E.), which, for all its charm, is not pedes­trian ori­ented.

Street life ad­van­tage: Port­land.

Ur­ban neigh­bour­hoods com­par­i­son


Port­land has a rep­u­ta­tion as a foodie city, not only be­cause of its food carts, but also due to its lead­er­ship in the “farmto-ta­ble” move­ment, along with winer­ies and craft brew­eries and a bud­ding dis­tillery in­dus­try.

The likes of CNN, New York Times and Food & Wine mag­a­zine have all touted Port­land as one of the best places to eat.

In many ways, Calgary is fol­low­ing in Port­land’s foot­steps. Salt & Straw is the two-yearold “it” ice cream store (think Vil­lage Ice Cream), and peo­ple can be lined up for hours River­Walk/Prom­e­nade/Prince’s Is­land/Mil­len­nium Park Belt­line/Stam­pede Park Manch­ester 17th Av­enue /4th Street In­ter­na­tional Av­enue *Bold­ing in­di­cates where one neigh­bour­hood has the up­per hand. If no bold­ing, con­sider them on par with each other. to get a Ba­con Maple Bar at Voodoo Dough­nut (think Jelly Mod­ern Dough­nuts).

How­ever, Calgary does have its iconic foodie spots — such as Peters’ Drive-In and My Favourite Ice Cream Shoppe or Chicken On The Way — that Port­landi­ans might en­joy.

But Calgary has noth­ing to match Port­land’s Satur­day Farm­ers’ Mar­ket, which is on two blocks in a lin­ear park near the Port­land State Univer­sity cam­pus.

Maybe we could do some­thing sim­i­lar in Ri­ley Park, or in the huge park­ing lot at SAIT Polytech­nic over­look­ing down­town. Time mag­a­zine called Port­land “Amer­ica’s new food Eden,” which is no ex­ag­ger­a­tion given its lush veg­e­ta­tion.

Known as the craft beer cap­i­tal of North Amer­ica — and per­haps the world — Port­land has more than 60 brew­eries. Imag­ine, you could al­most en­joy a dif­fer­ent beer ev­ery day of the year.

At best, Calgary can claim only a hand­ful of home­made brew­eries. How­ever, what we lack in craft beers, we make up in cafes and roas­t­er­ies.

Port­land can’t match our in­de­pen­dent cafe scene, which in­cludes Beanos, Bumpy’s, deVille, Grav­ity, Higher Ground, Kawa, Phil & Se­bas­tian, Roas­t­erie and Rosso, to name a few.

Calgary even has a Stump­town Cafe (Port­land’s sig­na­ture roas­t­erie) at Luke’s Mar­ket in Bridge­land. Given Port­land’s hip­ster rep­u­ta­tion, we were shocked at how few cafes there were in the Ore­gon city.

Foodie ad­van­tage: Port­land.

Stump­town ver­sus Cow­town

Port­land is sup­posed to be the home of the mod­ern hip­ster move­ment; I’m not sure what I was ex­pect­ing, but when all is said and done, Port­land, or Stump­town (when Port­land was first de­vel­oped, they had to cut down huge trees and of­ten left the stumps to rot), is re­ally not much dif­fer­ent than Cow­town when it comes to be­ing an ur­ban play­ground.

I’m not sure how the sis­ter cities pro­gram works, but if any two cities in North Amer­ica should be linked, I think Port­land and Calgary are a nat­u­ral fit.

Richard White/for the Calgary Her­ald

Richard White/for the Calgary Her­ald

Cus­tomers line up for hours at Voodoo Dough­nuts in Port­land.

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