A New Season Approaches

New Seasons is moving to my neighborhood. Everyone is thrilled. I’m pretty excited about it myself. I love the idea of being able to simply walk down the block to pick up a few groceries. And when they take over the old, deserted Daily Grind building, they will only be elevating the value of the neighborhood as a whole. But there is a caveat. You knew it was coming, right?

At first the new store was to be a test model. Rather than a larger store, CEO Brian Rohter envisioned a small 10,000 square foot neighborhood destination; one where most shoppers would pop in on a regular basis for that night’s dinner fixings or a last minute bottle of wine. However, due to funders who are reluctant to take risks on a new idea in our current shocked economy, Rohter has had to increase the scope of his plans to a 17,000 square foot store, with 37 rooftop parking spaces, and a ramp that egresses onto SE 41st Avenue.

Here’s the caveat. When we think New Seasons, we think fresh, locally grown, often organic food. But New Seasons also means a large amount of extra traffic. Southeast 41st Avenue is a designated bike boulevard. It is also so narrow that two cars cannot pass each other at the same time. This helps keep things quiet and rather slow. What will all this extra traffic do to the quality of life in this neighborhood?

Many neighbors are requesting that New Seasons consider moving their proposed parking ramp over to 40th to help ease congestion between cars and the bike boulevard and to give drivers a faster route back to 39th Avenue. But whether the ramp is on 40th or 41st the sad fact is that both of these streets will just have to suck it up and take on the extra traffic. With busier streets, the livability in the neighborhood will decline…even as New Seasons brings added value and convenience.

I’m optimistic that New Seasons will work with the neighborhood to make sure they fit in smoothly. And still, when I sit out on the front porch with my morning coffee, there is a part of me that is already in mourning for the loss of peace and quiet.


MightyToyCannon said...

I suspect that New Seasons will do well on that corner, even though Fred Meyer on 39th and Hawthorne has just completed its major remodel which included becoming more “green” (whatever that really means).

When we lived closer to Hawthorne and worked from home, I made the trip to the future New Season’s site for two main reasons: 1) To make copies at the Mail Box Express (now UPS?) store on the corner of SE 41st corner; and 2) To pick up bento to go from Mio Sushi on the SE 40th corner. I know how narrow and congested both those streets are, and remember feeling guilty every time I drove through the residential neighborhood rather than try to make a left to get back on Hawthorne headed home. The transition from busy Hawthorne to quiet residential is immediate.

Both 40th and 41st are terrible streets from which to get back onto Hawthorne – especially when trying to head west. Whichever street gets the exit from New Seasons, a stoplight is going to be needed to get cars back on Hawthorne efficiently and safely.

I wonder if New Seasons and/or City of Portland are thinking of simply blocking either (or both) of those streets to southbound traffic entering from Hawthorne. Road blocks could be installed just south of the New Season’s property such that anyone leaving would have to exit to Hawthorne, rather than sneaking through the residential blocks. When I lived in Berkeley, traffic on many residential streets was tightly controlled by a series of such bollards. It was controversial traffic design when implemented because it makes navigation challenging for drivers who don’t know where the blockages are. Some argued that it was a safety hazard because firetrucks and ambulances might get stuck or be slowed. I just remembered that I grew accustomed to it AND it was an effective tool to keep people from using side streets as thoroughfares.

Jenny Wren said...

I think New Seasons will do great on that corner too. And I'm glad they are going to be there. Much as I loved the Daily Grind for certain items, most things there cost more than I wanted to spend. Not that NS is cheap, but they do have pretty good specials at any given time.

I do know that NS and the City had a meeting this week to address the traffic issues. I have yet to hear the results of that meeting.

I like the road block idea! Bikes could get through, but cars couldn't (kind of like Lincoln at 39th). The idea of making each of these streets one way has also been floated. I'm not as keen on that idea. I have a feeling it will encourage cars to go faster on each street since they know there will be no opposing traffic.