Portland's First Living Room

By Julia Benford

Did you know that Portland has over 12,000 acres of parkland within its city limits? One of the best things about Portland is the way that green space is integrated with the rest of the city, making it possible to enjoy a day in the park while still having access to shops, restaurants, and cultural opportunities. South Park Blocks, located downtown, is a great place to visit if you want to experience Portland’s unique combination of parks and culture. We sat down with David Newman, founder of Friends of South Park Blocks, to find out what makes the park so special.

What role does South Park Blocks play in the surrounding community?

There are 3-4,000 people living within 2 blocks of the park. Since downtown Portland is an urban area without room for yards, South Park Blocks provides important green space for those residents. It has something for everyone-- in addition to nearby residents, you also see downtown workers taking their lunch breaks, preschool groups having recess, and visitors checking out downtown. So really it’s a space for anyone who comes to downtown Portland.

What connection does South Park Blocks have with nearby businesses?

Being downtown, South Park Blocks is located near many businesses and organizations. The Portland Art Museum, the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, and the Oregon Historical Society Museum are all located adjacent to the park, and there are lots of restaurants and shops nearby. Having the park nearby gives a distinctive feel to the area. It’s unique to have a park so close to these kinds of downtown visitor attractions.

Without South Park Blocks, how would the neighborhood be different?

Without the South Park Blocks, there would be no green space or gardens in the neighborhood. Having the park there makes the area more open and spacious, creating a venue for local events. As I mentioned previously, there is a nice concentration of cultural centers in the neighborhood, and the park provides a central space that ties these organizations together.

Next time you’re downtown, try spending some time exploring South Park Blocks and its neighboring attractions. There’s no better way to spend an afternoon than a relaxing stroll in the park, followed by some beautiful paintings at the Portland Art Museum and an evening performance at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. If you’re looking for a quicker trip, check out the South Park Blocks Wednesday Farmer’s Market, where you can pick up some tasty pizza for lunch and fresh produce for dinner. South Park Blocks is a convenient way to enjoy both Portland’s vibrant city life and its beautiful parks.