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Collaborating with communities is what we're all about.


A core aspect of our mission is helping communities work together to find shared goals. We do this through visioning workshops, design walks, surveys, mapping special places and buildings, identifying opportunities and common priorities. Begun in late 2013 as the Division Design Initiative, in the midst of major redevelopment, our approach was to work together with communities to find out what was important to them and we've done this in as many diverse ways we could. From there our work has grown as more and more communities started asking for our help.


In 2019, we scaled up to a city-wide project so we could help more communities in need. With the pandemic, we've had to limit our typical outreach but are excited to tap into more creative approaches. As we grow, we know we have much more to do to reach diverse and under-served communities and are committed to "doing the work" internally and externally to foster safe and inclusive approaches, that reach people where they are at in ways that feel easy, and overcome barriers to participation.

We're all unpaid volunteers, so we do what we can as we have time, leveraging support of community partners, student research and internships, and many dedicated professionals in architecture, urban planning, policy, landscape architecture, photography, art, and public involvement.

Research is also a big part of our work and key to evidence based recommendations that illustrate what we hear as common themes, and shared goals. You can see other ways we've engaged communities with art, placemaking, design awards, educational workshops on sustainability and affordable housing, policy education and advocacy on our Events page as well. 

Main street design guidelines and goals reflect priorities overwhelming heard by communities over years of public engagement.   Below are a few examples that informed development of our PDX main street design guidelines:

  • Inter-neighborhood coalition of appointed and elected members from seven local organizations

  • 20+ inter-neighborhood design committee meetings over two years of monthly public meetings with formal agendas and meeting minutes

  • Used an RFP open public process to solicit professional technical assistance for design guidelines

  • Raised $10,000 through a small grant, donations and leveraged volunteers and interns to boot-strap our main street work

  • Partnered with Portland State University on multiple planning and architecture design studios

  • Gathered nearly 300 online Division Perception Surveys

  • Gathered 450 vision cards from nine custom “Your Voice Matters” art installations

  • Gathered more than 150 design policy comment forms

  • Design walks, tabling at events, inventories of special buildings and key development sites to set proactive goals

Since 2014, our collaborative community work has included:

  • Creating two sets of design guidelines based on collaborative community processes and inter-neighborhood coalitions. Our guidelines have been adopted for 12 streets in Portland by 9 neighborhood and business association.

  • Education and policy advocacy on many local government planning projects, and initiation of several of our own including an Innovative Housing Demonstrations Policy (IHDP) and a Community Based Planning Policy (CBPP)

  • Inventories of special buildings for multiple neighborhoods

  • Stakeholder workshops on design, visioning, sustainability, zero energy buildings, adaptive reuse, community design tools and affordable housing 

  • Collaborating with businesses and associations on design projects, policy advocacy, storefront beautification and placemaking

  • Hosting many neighborhood design and education walking tours

  • Tabling at public events including street fairs, as well as at farmers markets and grocery stores

  • Presentations at neighborhood associations, conferences, design panels around the City

  • Grant writing to support partners efforts to engage the public in planning and public involvement

  • Photography exhibits highlighting the pattern language of main streets and context-sensitive development

  • Launching a design awards program to honor projects that foster context-sensitive design, good adaptive reuse, culturally important buildings, missing middle housing, art and innovation

  • Research and outreach on methods for equitable and culturally sensitive engagement methods including education about indigenous land acknowledgements and strategies to turn values into action, this is ongoing

  • Creating a Toolkit for Neighborhood Design to provide pro-bono resources to communities

  • And so much more....

Want to get involved? See our Volunteer and Support pages to learn more. See our Contact page to get in touch.

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