City of Portland

What is your vision for Congress Square?

Made it happen
City of Portland
About this Project
Many great public spaces have grown out of communities resisting development. It is the evolution from opposition to proactive visioning – helping to create, finance, and manage public spaces – that often makes the opposition successful. Congress Square, and the community around it, are forging this story of transformation.

The City of Portland Planning Department conducted a public visioning process to assess the needs and aspirations of the community for Congress Square. Through, Twitter, and with signs strategically placed throughout the city they asked people to respond to the prompt, “I want… in Congress Square”. Their efforts garnered over 650 responses. With those responses in hand, the Friends of Congress Square Park began to implement some of the more immediately obtainable requests, the “Lighter Quicker, Cheaper” (LQC) interventions.

“We saw the potential of Congress Square Park, but knew we had to work quickly if we were going to save it,” says Bree LaCasse, Friends of Congress Square Park board member, “Inspired by the work of Project for Public Spaces, we set to work raising money, establishing partnerships, and adding amenities. Our first summer of community-led placemaking has been a tremendous success.”

With some movable furniture and free WiFi, more people started stopping by. Food trucks brought meals (coffee and doughnuts by Urban Sugar, and nationally acclaimed street food by Small Axe) and meals brought more people. Soon more and more people started coming and staying, populating the square throughout the day with people from the neighborhood who finally had a place to sit outside, read the paper, enjoy a cup of coffee, eat their lunch, or get some work done. It was a square that had been waiting for people and people who had been waiting for a welcoming public space.

Congress Square Park is turning into the community asset it always had the potential to be and the community is jumping on the new found opportunity to come together in a great public space. It serves a densely populated neighborhood of retail establishments, commercial properties, educational and arts institutions, and residential housing. It has the highest population density, the oldest age demographic, and the most people without cars of any area in the City of Portland. In fact, there are approximately 10,000 residents within a five-minute walk of Congress Square Park. Congress Square Park is their “backyard” and can provide these residents with important opportunities for recreation, relaxation and interaction. With SPACE Gallery, the Portland Museum of Art, Children’s Museum, two theaters (one large, one small), a number of galleries and music venues, the Cumberland County Civic Center, and the Main College of Art within a three block radius of the square, the possibilities for partnerships in the future seems endless.

What's Next?
The story of Congress Square Park is still unfinished. With the hard work of the Friends of Congress Square Park, the square is starting to come alive, gain momentum, and to live up to its possibilities as a public space. But with a start like this, the future of Congress Square Park could be a true city square.

“The transformation is now well underway: Congress Square Park is becoming a lively community gathering place. It’s inspiring to be a part of this community effort.” states Bree LaCasse, “We are now working to establish a public private partnership with the City to create an ongoing management structure. We are confident that together we can create a world-class public space – a central attraction at the heart of Portland’s Arts District – that will be an anchor for economic and community growth in the neighborhood.”

Get Involved

Participants (305)

Dispatch Magazine
Holly Seeliger
Will Kessler
Rachel Lyn Rumson
Adam Burk
Michael Jay Anthony
Shana Hostetter
Christina Marie Perez
Evan McVeigh
Rebecca Minnick
Jill Barkley
Anya Trundy
Wells Lyons
Markos Miller
Laura Balladur


Congress Street at High Street

Recent Activity

Arthur Fink

I want a small to medium size performance space with a SPRUNG FLOOR that makes it suitable for dance.

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Posted Aug 25, 2013
wendy stanley
wendy stanley
Aug 25, 2013

Ideas like this are fine and all, but if the city sells 2/3 of our land, we will not have enough room to do much> I do not think the city councelors should be making the decision to sell. We have so little public space on Congress st. now-- wendy

Posted by wendy stanley on Aug 25, 2013
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Joel Eckhaus

Congress St. could have clean electric trollies moving frequently from one end of the mall to the other and the cross streets could carry vehicle traffic across town to the major North/South Arteries.
Frequent bus service could carry passengers to and from town over the Casco Bay Bridge and from outer Congress, Brighton, Forest and Washington Ave.

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Posted Aug 24, 2013
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Joel Eckhaus

I see Congress Square as the centerpiece of a pedestrian mall on Congress St. from Longfellow to Monument squares. The Square should be used for all types of events as well as an urban space for sitting, meeting, and other activities.
I see High and State Streets returned to two way traffic, and not be a major arteries through the center of town. The bulk of traffic on Congress street should be routed to Marginal way, somerset St. Cumberland Ave, Free, Commercial and Spring Sts. and the traffic on High and State streets from the bridge to 295 could be routed to Commercial St. and Veterans Bridge, St John St., or the Fore River Parkway to the south and Franklin Street and Washington Ave. to the North.

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Posted Aug 24, 2013
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Tom K.

Over the objection of more than a dozen residents, the City Council's Housing and Community Development Committee voted 3-1 Wednesday to sell most of a downtown plaza to a developer that wants to build an event center.

The council will vote on the purchase-and-sale agreement Sept. 9, said Councilor Nicholas Mavodones, who chairs the committee.

Under the agreement, Rockbridge Capital would pay about $524,000 for 9,500 square feet of the nearly half-acre plaza at the corner of High and Congress streets.


Portland committee OKs sale of downtown plaza | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

The City Council will vote on the $524,000 agreement for Congress Square Plaza on Sept. 9.

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Posted Aug 22, 2013
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wendy stanley

The meeting last night was very discouraging for me- there is so much public opinion against the sale- we should be the stewards of Public land. I am also bothered by the attitudes of the 3 councilors who voted in favor."development is better" Kevin Donohue was very well spoken in his support of saving our park, representing his constituency. wendy stanley

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Posted Aug 22, 2013
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