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Existing main street character - pedestr

Main Street Design Guidelines

Portland's vintage streetcar main street centers are vital to the economic health, local culture, and distinctive qualities of our City. However, without context-sensitive design and planning tools, these can be quickly overwhelmed, fragmented or lose their identity. All Portlanders deserve a meaningful voice in shaping their communities as our city grows. However, without tools,  resources, or expertise, few know where to start or how to proactively advocate. We provide free and low-bono design and planning support to help those in need with workshops, visioning, surveys, special studies, public engagement, and grant writing assistance. Below are a few of the resources we have developed to support communities. More are available in our Toolbox for Neighborhood Design.

Our voluntary design guidelines highlight strategies any community can use to help work with local context, with flexibility for diverse architecture, cultural expression, creativity and innovation.​ 

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PDX Main Streets Design Guidelines

Originally developed as the Division Design Guidelines to help communities document their goals and design priorities. we soon realized these were needed for many of Portland's Main Streets which share similar characteristics and patterns. They were created with over five years of grassroots planning and donated work by dedicated leaders, architects and planners. You can learn more about the extensive public engagement, research and community work on our Division Guidelines pageThese voluntary PDX Main Street Design Guidelines have been locally adopted for 12 Main Streets including Division, Hawthorne, Woodstock, multiple streets in Sellwood-Moreland, and seven main streets in Hosford Abernethy (including MLK, Grand, 11th & 12th Avenues, Clinton and Powell).

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Sellwood Moreland Main Street Design Supplement

In January 2019, the Sellwood Moreland Improvement League Board of Directors adopted the PDX Main Streets Design Guidelines for their neighborhood main streets. From 2018-2020 we were hired low-bono to support Sellwood-Moreland with a special supplement in addition to the design guidelines.


In 2020, the SMILE Board adopted the Sellwood-Moreland Design Guidelines (a Supplement to the PDX Main Street Guidelines)

Learn more about the Community Process


Templates to Engage with Designers & Developers

Sample Design Guidelines Letter to Developers+ Designers | Template for Neighborhood & Business Associations regarding design guidelines + community engagement policy

Developer Notification & Community Engagement Policy | Developed by the Richmond Neighborhood Association (RNA) and adopted by RNA, HAND, and STNA. This gives guidance on when to engage, what information to bring so community groups can understand context and impacts, and has a template for how to follow-up on community comments heard.

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"Main Street Minute"Video
Design Patterns Overview

One minute video with a short overview of many (but not all) of the typical main street patterns produced by one of our amazing videographer volunteers. This helps others see the design "patterns" that are common threads across all our main streets in Portland, and in fact many cities across the world. These patterns are not about style, but about common design features that contribute to cost-efficiency, function, and human-scale design at any size building.

"Seeing the patterns was like putting on a pair of glasses, I suddenly saw my City in a whole new way."

"I now see these patterns everywhere!  Thank you so much!"

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