'Culinary Corridor' could save food carts threatened by development

(KATU Photo)

Downtown Portland's largest food cart pod will likely disappear next year, as the block between Southwest Washington and Southwest Alder and Southwest 9th and Southwest 10th gets transformed into a major development project.

The more than 50 carts currently on the block will either have to close or move somewhere else. Now, there's a unique idea to keep some of them in the same area.

"The food cart culture is very unique to Portland," said Daniel Huerta, owner of the Churros Locos food truck.

Huerta was one of three people to present the idea to the Portland City Council Wednesday morning. It calls for revamping sections of Southwest Park and Southwest 9th avenues between Director Park and O'Bryant Square and letting a limited number of food carts move onto those streets.

"We're talking about eight to 10 parking spaces where food carts can be parked instead of being on a lot," said Huerta, speaking about individual blocks.

Huerta teamed up with Brett Burmeister, founder of FoodCartsPortland.com, and Randy Gragg, and urban design advocate.

They call the Culinary Corridor an anti-business displacement plan and a bold urban design move. They liken it to a kind of street festival that could link some of downtown's shopping districts.

Hennebery Eddy Architects, Inc. provided some of the initial renderings for the idea.

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KATU spoke with food cart patrons at the downtown pod and the reaction was mixed.

"I think that roads can be put to a lot better use than just for vehicular travel," said Jason Weis. "I certainly want to keep getting food here, and if you just move them 10 feet out into, say, this road here, that would be great."

"I feel like it's going to cause congestion," said Ceci, who didn't want to provide a last name.

Advocates of the plan admit they have a long way to go before it becomes a reality. Portland city code may have to change and other agencies and entities would also have to get on board. But Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler called it an exciting concept after Wednesday's presentation.

"This morning, seeing the City Council's reaction, I feel we're going to get the ball rolling," said Huerta.

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