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Dec 20, 2011

PCC explores underground parking garage with Campus and Neighborhood Stakeholders

As part of PCC’s ongoing efforts to engage campus and community stakeholders in its master planning and transportation demand management (TDM) work for Cascade Campus, the PCC Bond Team recently met with students, faculty, staff and neighbors to discuss an underground parking option to address campus parking and access needs.  TDM is a wide range of policies, programs, services and products that influence how, why, when and where people travel to make travel behaviors more sustainable. The master planning process and the TDM study, which will result in campus TDM plans and new policies district-wide, are running concurrently.

Option A3 Alternate with underground garage (Cascade Campus)


The college’s decision to embrace the campus and neighborhood preference for situating the new Student Center at the west end of the campus, across from the new academic building, reopened the idea of an underground garage.  The goal in reintroducing the concept, along with associated opportunities and constraints, at this early stage was so the team could incorporate stakeholders’ perspectives regarding concept and operational issues before taking additional travel counts, reassessing costs and issues and passing it onto the PCC Executive Team for a decision in late December.

This past November and early December, Cascade Campus and Bond Program staff consulted with PCC student leaders, department chairs, the Cascade leadership team and public safety staff, the Campus/Community Bond Advisory Committee (BAC), Humboldt Neighborhood Association and other campus and community and business members to discuss the underground garage as compared to the above-ground garage in the original A3 Option (below).

Option A3 with Parking Garage (PCC Cascade Campus)

Last June, the
Campus Stakeholder Work Group (SWG) and the BAC identified Option A3 as their preferred design.  Both groups selected A3 from 12 other options with the knowledge that PCC’s TDM work would continue to run parallel to the master planning process and could influence campus planning with regards to parking strategies. This information was also shared at six open houses hosted in October 2011.

In campus meetings with PCC students, feedback was overwhelmingly positive. “When PCC showed the students the plan, there was near universal support for the underground lot. It meets our desire to mesh better with the community and creates a more cohesive footprint,” said Doug Taylor, President of Associated Students of PCC (Cascade Campus).

The response was equally supportive among BAC members and the other community members and PCC students who attended the BAC meeting on December 5th, at Jefferson High School (Notes for BAC Meeting #12) and the winter campus in-service. Many viewed the underground design as preserving the historic urban neighborhood’s identity and the emerging Killingsworth business corridor.

“This option considers livability and design aspects in North Portland. A four-story garage would be detrimental to our neighborhood and the Killingsworth area. Underground parking is a really good option with TDM strategies. We live here… this is our neighborhood even after PCC staff and faculty have gone home.  We want you to make the campus a part of our neighborhood, especially on Albina, Michigan and Mississippi streets,” said Brian Borrello, Land Use Chair for the Piedmont Neighborhood Association.

Other BAC members expressed concern that there wasn’t enough baseline information or TDM performance goals presented to know if the underground garage could adequately address the parking issues in surrounding neighborhoods.  Brian Murtagh, BAC member and representative for the Humboldt Neighborhood Association, felt that he couldn’t tell “how much this proposal would reduce or add to cars in the neighborhood (and) that both (parking) plans are inadequate to handle the demand.”

Cascade Campus is in the Humboldt neighborhood; Piedmont neighborhood’s southern border on Ainsworth Street is two blocks north of campus.

Team member Will Dann of THA Architects explained that the underground garage would have 60 less parking stalls than the above-ground garage. He reminded stakeholders that both parking options would rely heavily on TDM strategies to change behaviors and transportation choices of PCC students, faculty and staff. The likelihood of TDM strategies successfully changing behaviors is one of the key factors the college will evaluate in making its decision regarding parking options.

According to a recent survey of PCC students, faculty and staff, Cascade Campus has the highest percentage of bicycle commutes (10%) for all PCC campuses.


Doug Taylor acknowledged that, “students would have to change their behaviors too. On our side of things, we are getting ready to launch the Green Initiative Fund‘s bicycle program this winter to retrofit used bikes to then lease to students for $60 or less a year.  Proposed new bike facilities and storage… will help as well.”

Other BAC members asked how the garage would affect traffic flow on Killingsworth and local businesses. Jason Lim, BAC member and representative for his family’s newspaper business The Asian Reporter asked how the garage might impact their commercial property right across the street. “What will the affects be are on the ground? (How will) the proposed underground lot affect turning vehicles, adjacent businesses and traffic flow on Killingsworth?”

Brian Wannamaker, a local developer, commercial property owner and founder of the Falcon Art Community, appreciated the alternate parking concept for its urban design and sustainable use of land.  ” I love the concept of an underground parking garage. It is so much better than a cinder block structure in our neighborhood.”

Tom Markgraf, long time Piedmont neighbor, supported the underground lot noting that “parking structures are a colossal waste of dollars, takes away money from students and classes. The (underground garage) idea preserves the neighborhood.”

Ester, ASPCC's Environmental Sustainability Director, will help launch Cascade's student-run bike retrofit and leasing program making it easier and more affordable for students to commute by bike.

“The underground lot will only work if the college and its external partners can effectively collaborate to meet TDM targets that will meaningfully mitigate the number of cars currently  parking in the neighborhood,” said Rick Williams, the consultant leading the TDM study for the College. “If the College finds that it would not be able to meet those targets, the original Option A3 with proposed four-story garage would need to be reconsidered.”

The next steps for PCC is to weigh stakeholder input, along with considerations about urban form, costs, influence on the neighborhood and emerging business corridor and TDM performance goals. PCC is scheduled to make a final decision by the end of the year. Once a decision is made, PCC’s Bond Team will move forward on building design and conditional use applications with the City of Portland.

Notes for BAC Meeting #12

Media Inquiries

Interested in learning more about this topic or including information from this post in a news article? Contact Gina Whitehill Baziuk, Public Involvement and Stakeholder Engagement Manager for the PCC Bond Program.

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