The Enlightened Intersection

A Portland, Oregon, neighborhood turns a street corner into a convivial gathering place

| July / August 2004

The vast majority of American intersections are bland and busy crossings whose main purpose is to keep traffic moving right on through. Their potential as gathering places gets lost in the shuffle. The intersection of Ninth and Sherrett in the Sellwood neighborhood in Portland, Oregon, was once a case in point. The corner had improved since the 1970s, when crime ruled the area, but it was hardly a thriving, inviting place. In 1996 neighbors banded together to enhance the intersection with amenities to be shared by all, including a 24-hour-a-day tea stand, a community library, and a children's playhouse with games and stuffed animals for neighborhood kids. The corner was renamed Share-It Square and it is now a bustling corner that serves as a neighborhood meeting place and informal community center.

The Sellwood neighborhood's initiative spawned a citywide 'intersection repair' movement in Portland that is now aimed at all 96 of its neighborhoods. Inspired by Portland's example, similar projects are afoot in Eugene, Oregon, and Olympia, Washington.

Do you live near a thriving corner? If so, we want to hear about it. Tell us about otherwise ordinary urban, suburban, or small-town intersections that have been transformed through community organizing or enlightened business development (or both), as well as intersections that have long had a magical convening quality without any extra help. We're looking for America's Most Enlightened Intersections!

Nominate your favorite enlightened intersection: Write to us at Utne magazine, 1624 Harmon Place, Minneapolis, MN 55403 or e-mail with your enlightened intersection nominees.

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