City Spotlight: Portland, Oregon

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Portland, Oregon, has its quirks. It’s in one of only two U.S. states where drivers legally can’t pump their own gas; it has so many food carts, you could chow down at a different cart every day for two years; and it lays claim to the world’s smallest park at only 24 inches wide.

More perk than quirk, the City of Roses has no sales tax. “Keeping food and beverage costs low allows planners to focus their resources elsewhere,” says Mandy Tucker, convention sales manager of faith-based meetings for Travel Portland. If you think oddities are all the city offers, you should see (or taste, rather) its culinary chops. “The food scene alone is enough to keep people busy for days,” adds Tucker. Indeed, The Washington Post dubbed Portland America’s best food city in December 2015. Find out why PDX is an ideal, albeit eccentric, spot for faith-focused meetings and events.

PLANNER PERSPECTIVE

Deb Davies, manager of assembly services for Presbyterian Church (USA), brought her group of 3,000 to Portland for the organization’s General Assembly June 18-25. In its 222nd year, the biennial business meeting brought ministers and elders, as well as advisory delegates, staff and board members, to Oregon Convention Center.

“The convention center works well for us, with ample space for our business meetings, committees, exhibit hall and other functions—and a great staff. Though the hotel [block] is spread out, the light rail and other public transportation options make that workable,” says Davies, who also touts strong support from Travel Portland.

The group’s Committee on Local Arrangements planned off-site tours of International Rose Test Garden and nearby Columbia River Gorge, as well as walking and biking tours. “On Sunday, churches in the area hosted participants for worship and lunch,” adds Davies.

GETTING AROUND

Walk Portland was intentionally designed with walkability in mind, with easy-to-navigate, gridlike streets and abundant crosswalks.

Bike Attendees can now cruise through the city’s hip food scene and pedal along Eastbank Esplanade next to the Willamette River on bright-orange bicycles thanks to Nike’s Biketown program, launched in July.

Ride Portland Streetcar (the one that launched the nation’s modern-day streetcar movement) operates seven days per week. Another option is the MAX Light Rail, which has 84 stations along 52 miles of track connecting the city, airport and region. Meeting at the convention center? Ask about including MAX transit in your package.

TWO NEW TO YOU

Try a pair of new, intimate Stumptown venues for breakouts and smaller elder board or leadership team meetings.

  1. The newly renovated Revolution Hall, an 830-seat performing arts venue with private event space in Portland’s Eastside, has old-school vintage charm left over from its days as Washington High School in 1906. Serve school-approved mocktails in its prefunction lobby bar space—or from its 2,700-sq.-ft. roof deck. “I can’t think of another Eastside space that has a sweeping view of downtown like we do,” says Ned Failing, marketing manager.

  2. In Portland’s Buckman neighborhood (across the river from downtown) sits The Evergreen, an event venue that opened in September 2015 with room for 550 people. The space is expansive and airy, and the natural light flooding in illuminates historic details like exposed brick walls and an original maple wood floor dating back to 1908.

CULINARY COMMUNITY

Meet Portland’s first-ever food hall, Pine Street Market. Opened in May, the 10,000-sq.-ft. communal dining space downtown has nine food vendors, ranging from coffee shops and hot dog purveyors to ramen spots and beef tongue banh mi makers. The market is within walking distance of downtown hotels and only 1 mile from Oregon Convention Center, making for an easy group dining option.

GATHER 'ROUND

See which faith-based groups are meeting here in 2016.

> Catholic Youth Organization Champions of Faith Benefit Dinner

> Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Methodist Church Prayer Vigil

> Union Gospel Mission Annual Banquet

> The United Methodist Church General Council on Finance and Administration General Conference