Multicultural Commercial Re-Entry Programs 

for Socially Distanced Vending & Celebration of POC Presence



Program Context

On May 28th 2020, in response to COVID-19, the Portland Bureau of Transportation released a free permit for businesses through their Healthy Business Program. This permit has allowed for businesses to extend seating, retail space, etc., into the public right-of-way. 


Our Multicultural Commercial Re-Entry Programs work to ensure that these new publicly available spaces are not exclusive to businesses with storefronts lining commercial streets and districts, nor do they contribute detrimentally to communities through blatant gentrification. 


Timeline: July - September 2020

Main Streets America has featured this project as a national case study. Read the article here.

Created in partnership with award-winning community organization Alberta Main Street, the program's first two pop-up locations were initiated on Alberta Street, a popular and historically-Black main street in Portland. Over the past 20 years, the neighborhood around Alberta has experienced extreme displacement. Our Alberta Multicultural Commercial Re-entry Program brought dozens of vendors every weekend to the area, spurring a noticeable change to who shops on one of Portland's most popular commercial streets. We worked with over 60 businesses to create the program in four locations.

This program has been an unprecedented tool in changing the psychology of who's "welcome" on Alberta, and celebrates Black presence in particular, while bringing a smaller version of the "Last Thursday" festival atmosphere that many community members miss due to COVID-19 cancellations. 

These markets have been created, managed, and carried on by local community leaders. Our mission to provide a self-sustaining framework has allowed the initial work of We All Rise to be successfully placed in the hands of local stakeholders with a full sense of ownership. This project serves as an important example of non-traditional responses to crises, and innovative re-entry strategies for formerly displaced business communities. 


Timeline: October - December 2020

Heading into winter, our goal is to encourage businesses to work together and support them in the collaborative design process. We will start with winter case studies as a way to engage the public and hear pointed feedback. The initial “Pop-Up Plaza” and “Pop-Up Parklets” will help us understand how to extend the design further to create a Pop-Up Business District. Following program development initiated during the spring and summer, we will continue to engage the public to identify other community projects. Strong community engagement at this stage is critical; we will ensure that feedback and concerns are not only listened to, but that they lead us in our efforts.


To carry out the program, a collaborative process between local artists, business, and community members will be developed to spearhead innovation. 


Our objectives:

  • Develop an effective engagement strategy that brings together residents, community leaders, and businesses to effectively address social distancing concerns

  • Develop frameworks for equity and inclusion for businesses priced out of East Portland and those who need development assistance. Ensure that mentorship, learning, accessibility, and capacity development guide outreach, engagement, and implementation 

  • Conceptualize reentry programs for underserved businesses by promoting collaborative art, culture, and design initiatives 

  • Create opportunities to showcase BIPOC culture and history with a special focus on the Black community through displays and celebrations online and in the street during safe, socially-distanced events

  • Create a space that is accessible regardless of personal ability.