A Better Location for a Portland Public Market

By Forrest Smith - Drempd.com

There was sad news recently that the James Beard Public Market abandoned their plans for a downtown location, which was to be placed at the west end of the Morrison Bridge.  Currently, the market’s board of directors are working with OMSI to locate the market on the east side of the river, near the soon-to-be-developed OMSI campus.  There are several advantages to the site, but I think it’s a mistake.  

The market should be located as close to downtown as possible.  It should be a place where people meet during their lunch hours, picking up their lunch and wandering to the waterfront to eat.  It should be a place that is easily accessed as people make their way home after work to pick up some fresh produce for dinner.  It should be a place that multiple existing neighborhoods can easily access.  For these reasons, the OMSI campus is the wrong location. 

A Public Market Between Portland’s Downtown and the Waterfront

Just south of Waterfront Park, between Naito and Harbor drive, is a forgotten strip of land.  It is currently only a parking lot, owned by the city, and is the perfect location for Portland’s new public market.  For lack of a better name, we’ll call it the Naito-Harbor site.

Aerial Photo of Proposed Market Location

Site Plan of Market Location and Connections to Downtown and Waterfront


Naito and Harbor Drive do a great job of severing the ties between the south end of downtown and the waterfront.  Several blocks to the west of the proposed Naito-Harbor Site lies Pettygrove park and an existing pedestrian-only walkway that dead ends at Naito.  To the west, lies Riverplace, and to the north, lies Waterfront park. Imagine the possibilities of a strengthening these connections, perhaps sweeping pedestrian bridges over Naito and Harbor drive, creating one continuous pedestrian thoroughfare from the high density neighborhoods around Pettygrove park, through the Public Market, and onto the river.

Neighborhood Accessibility

The Naito-Harbor Site is easily accessed by residents living in Downtown, the South Waterfront, and the Lair Hill neighborhood.  For many, the new market would be within walking distance, or a short ride on public transit.

Public Transit

There are strong transit connections available directly at the site.  The streetcar forms the southern boundary of the proposed site, and the new MAX line is one block south.  New stops could me added (or existing ones moved) to make the new market even more accessible to those arriving by transit.


The designs produced by Snohetta for the Morrison Bridge site were hinting at something striking.  A world-class firm was given the opportunity for designing a landmark building in one of Portland’s most prominent locations.  Located at the forefront of Portland’s southern skyline, the Naito-Harbor Site could produce an equally compelling landmark.


Currently, according to PortlandMaps.com, the proposed site is owned by the City of Portland, which should make it easier to dedicate this under-utilized strip of land to a higher purpose.

The Naito-Harbor Site should be seriously considered as the location for Portland’s James Beard Public Market. Since it is city-owned, the prospect of using this location for a higher public good is more possible than at other sites.  The location is easily accessible by several neighborhoods and by transit, and the Market could be used to create stronger bonds between Portland and its waterfront. It’s a location that not only could produce a great public market, but could also drastically improve an important corner of downtown Portland.