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DIVISION design initiative

The Division Design Initiative began as a community project to identify community goals and priorities for future development, create a shared vision, and design guidelines to inform anticipated development along SE Division Street with greater sensitivity to local character. Over time, more and more communities began adopting the Division Design Guidelines which ultimately became the Main Street Design Guidelines



Division Overview

Main Street Design Guidelines for Division

In 2018, Division neighborhoods and the business association adopted the Division Design Guidelines.  These are voluntary design guidelines and provide helpful community tools for new development. In 2020, these were re-adopted as the PDX Main Street Design Guidelines.


Where do the Division Design Guidelines apply?

The focus of the guidelines is the area along SE Division Street from 11th to 81st with concentrations of our most special historic buildings found around 30th to Cesar Chavez Boulevard (39th).


Who was involved and how?

The process began with the Richmond Neighborhood and involved forming an inter-neighborhood coalition, with elected and appointed representatives from seven organizations including the Division-Clinton Business Association (DCBA), Richmond Neighborhood Association (RNA), Hosford-Abernethy Neighborhood District (HAND), Mount Tabor and S. Tabor Neighborhood Associations (MTNA & STNA), SE Uplift Community Coalition, and Sustainable Southeast. This coalition met monthly for two years of open public meetings, and engaged local businesses, the community, and worked with design consultants (Design + Culture Lab and Urbsworks) working collaboratively to engage the community in identifying common design priorities and goals. Clarifying the community vision was a key part in the process, as well as identifying desired character and identity, special buildings and important sites for special planning consideration.

Progress + Process
Between 2014-2018, the project:

  • Secured a $2,000 grant from SE Uplift to develop design guidelines (view the final report).

  • ​Collaborated on a PSU Division Perceptions Design survey with 300 in depth responses

  • Hosted 20+ inter-neighborhood Division Design Committee meetings open to the public with formal agendas and minutes, led walking tours, hosted open houses, mapping and design booths at community street fairs and partnered with many volunteers to create Main Street Design guidelines.

  • ​Brought diverse stakeholders together for workshops and events including "Affordable, Adaptive Green Housing” and “Tools and Resources for Managing Growth and Change”.

  • ​Was the focus of two PSU architecture and planning studios (View the 2014 PSU Planning Report)

  • Created 10  unique art installation Your Voice Matters” suggestion boxes with Architecture for Humanity (with 450 vision cards received!),  

  • Hosted (PARK)ing Day pop-up installations ​in partnership with Architecture for Humanity

  • Developed illustrations of special buildings by a volunteer local artist

  • Documented a List of Special Buildings & Key Sites for Special Planning with initial goals, a unique architecture resource of local architectural style descriptions and photo examples in Southeast Portland (see Design Guidelines Appendix)

  • Worked with all four neighborhood associations in the project area to facilitate public review and comment, using common best practices to formally adopt the guidelines by all local partners. These suggestive Design Guidelines have now been adopted for Division Steet by all four neighborhood associations between Southeast 11th and 81st, and by the Division-Clinton Business Association as well as the Hawthorne Boulevard Business Association (HBBA).

  • Won multiple Daily Journal of Commerce "Women of Vision" Awards 

  • Developed a Community Design Toolkit of strategic grassroots planning approaches 

  • Created a set of main street design guidelines now locally adopted for 12 SE Portland Main Streets by 8 neighborhood and business associations.

  • Helped influence a small set of optional Main Street Design Standards adopted by the City of Portland for projects within the "M" Main Street Overlay Zones.

These guidelines are not mandatory, but do provide a model tool any neighborhood can use for their favorite main street(s). The processes above also provide an example of creative methods for community-based planning, integration of art, and strategies to raise design literacy and improve contextual density with sensitivity.

Get Involved! Join the conversation at one of our community workshops, volunteer, donate, or contact us to learn more.




Support fundraising for the Portland Main Streets Design Initiative so we can help many neighborhoods with tools, resources, good placemaking and public engagement. To donate and contribute to the cause contact us directly or simply click the button below.

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