The Enlightened Intersection

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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