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Sunday, February 4, 2007

The odd couplet

Big news in the O today: Randy Gragg's now a "columnist," not (just) the resident "architecture critic." And he urges us to "see both sides" of the Burnside-Couch couplet debate, while he spends most of his piece arguing for one of them. Surprise! Bad Randy says we shouldn't do it. His reason, of course, has nothing to do with cost. It's something like "keeping Portland weird."

Apparently, the fight is "the Brewery Blocks condo owners fighting to keep Northwest Couch Street's European pedestrian ambience against the Old Town social-service clients fighting for their safety on Burnside." That's an easy one for the Graggster: Condo owners win.

You'll also be pleased to know that he's now become a crusader against "the sameness racing to suffocate Portland, physically and socially." Uh huh.

Comments (17)

Portland's unique, 200-foot-square blocks have made us arguably the most European of American cities in our petite scale.

Has he ever been to New Orleans?

More important question: Can we get him to go now?

Let's hope he doesn't stumble onto any Euro-couplets.

I've got a couplet for him right here...

I sort of chuckled to myself when he called Burnside the spine of downtown Portland. I thought large intestine was more like it. All in all I thought it was one of his better commentaries in that he pretty much pointed out that the couplet is a just another tax payer funded bonanza for the developers.

Now, now. It's a linchpin.

I wonder what the most American city in Europe is?
Sir Gragg, can you please go find out?
And visit them all out to be sure on your slection.
By the time you get back the only people using the Tram will be OHSU staff who park at SoWa,
doctors who work and park their BMWs on the hill but mini-commute from work to their new SoWa health club via the Tram,,,,
and stiil a few people enamoured with the view becasue they've never driven across the Marquam bridge.

So what's the hangup the snooteratti have with European cities? Why can't Stumptown be like an Asian city, or a South American one? Why this European bias?
The Nickle

because Europe is progressive, cultured, enlightened, pretty, livable, or any other trait that can only be defined by the point of view of the "creative class" (environmentalists, yuppies, and planners).

Europe is the elightened continent with 10+ percent unemployment, riots for no reason, and an ethnic underclass that has a propensity to slit throats.

Oh, it has streetcars, trams, and the espresso is devine divine.

As a co-worker reminded me years ago, didn't a preponderance of our ancestors/relatives leave Europe for a reason?

It's not just a LINCHPIN. Let's turn to Graggs' "Brag" for further enlightenment.

Gragg writes:
It's about... "a historic decision"
It's about the... "long-term health of the city."
It's about... "who wins has historic consequences, determining how the city will develop, socially, physically and economically."

I think that "historic" includes; women voting rights established, finding the cure for measles, the creation of the Atomic Bomb. But I really don't think a Burnside/Couch couplet ranks anywhere higher on my list than an expensive new project for our CoP leadership to spend money on.

I think the superb job done by many of our area doctors and nurses, day after day, have far greater "long term health consequences" than Burnside/Couch couplet or Sam's Tram.

I think the vast core of parents and school teachers who genuinely care about our children will have far greater impact on determining "how the city will develop, socially, physically and economically," than the Burnside/Couch couplet or Sam's Tram or the Potter/Leonard's SoWa Money Pit (see South Macadam).

Randy Gragg's use of words and phrases such "Battle Royal," "Life Changing," and "Historical" do not make him a great writer, columnist, or architectural critic. And the attachment of those words to the Burnside/Couch couplet does not make it any more important than what it is... a decision of how to move traffic and people in the inner city... but please, "Life Changing?" I think not.

And, seriously, am I suppose to run straight into the arms of Sam Adams begging him to approve the project because Harold Schitzer has pledged to invest money into Schnitzer owned properties?

BTW... is Randy Gragg running for CoP Councilor in 2008, or will he remain on staff as the Big "O" Entertainment Editor?

But you have to appreciate the fact that Gragg is arguing for the retention of the used record stores, clothing outlets, and humbler restaurants in the Burnside area. Wasn't the loss of those things being lamented just a couple of weeks ago? The couplet would make the City more homogenous (his criticism of PDOT is spot-on), and leaving it alone retains some of that "character" we're always nostalgic for.

I agree with the result Gragg wants, but for much different reasons.

And I find it hilarious that a guy who's championed every stinking condo tower that anyone ever built around here -- and made a point of insulting every p*ssed-off neighborhood in the process -- is suddenly the champion of neighborhood character.

My guess is that he's got Pearlie friends on Couch Street who want to be able to walk their poodles in peace. The train whistles at night are bad enough.

The train whistles at night are bad enough.

The train whistles leave, Portland will dwindle into a backwoods nothing. But I digress, the train whistles are not leaving by any stretch of the imagination. :) It's one of the segments of the city that actually pays for itself (the freight part that is) AND pays taxes to prop up the rest o' the city.

Last time I looked Boston was probably more like a European city than Portland ever was, or will be. Besides having some 60, or more colleges and universities in the metro area Boston also has a subway, trolleys and urban rail. Not that I am suggesting Portland copy their transit system, but it would be noce to see something develop on the scale of their higher education system. They also have some awfully narrow streets in the older section of the city.
Maybe Gragg should get out and about more.

I think that Gragg has been sort of learning as he goes...he really has no background in architecture or planning, nor - more important for the rest of us - any real love or passion for it. He's steadfastly refused to educate himself over the years, but slowly by simple osmosis, is learning that not all that is shiny and glass and modern is good.

It's painful for those of us in the profession to watch someone knighted as an authority, reach only about to the metaphorical second grade level after about 15 years of journalistic floundering.

I suspect some of these last comments of his come about from his recent discovery of Jane Jacobs when she came to Portland a year or so ago. Most of the rest of us read her 30 years ago. But Gragg moves so slowly in self-education, that I fear he'll never catch up. As a professional, I prefer the O's design articles on how to turn your old fireplace into a storage area.

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