Naito Parkway

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Naito Parkway
Portland July 2017 10 (NW Naito Parkway).jpg
Facing northwest on the Steel Bridge
Former name(s)Front Avenue
Part of
OwnerPortland Bureau of Transportation
Length3.2 mi[1] (5.1 km)
LocationPortland, Oregon, U.S.
FromNW Front Ave
ToSW Barbur Blvd

Naito Parkway is a major thoroughfare of Portland in the U.S. state of Oregon. It was formerly known as Front Avenue and Front Street. It runs between SW Barbur Boulevard and NW Front Avenue, and adjacent to Tom McCall Waterfront Park through Downtown Portland.

Route description[edit]

Starting from the south, SW Naito Parkway begins at its interchange with Barbur Boulevard. Up to that point, Barbur serves as Oregon Route 99W (OR 99W) and OR 10, but Naito takes over this designation north of the interchange. Continuing northbound, the parkway has an interchange with the Ross Island Bridge, part of U.S. Highway 26 (US 26).

Sign at Naito & Market

The street then passes over Interstate 405 (I-405), including ramps for the Marquam Bridge, and into Downtown Portland. After passing Harbor Drive, which provides an I-5 southbound connection, the parkway runs adjacent to Tom McCall Waterfront Park through most of downtown, with connections to the Hawthorne and Morrison bridges.[1] The Morrison Bridge provides a second connection to I-5. Between these two bridges in the median of Naito is Mill Ends Park which is, according to some, the world's smallest park.[2]

Naito then passes by the Portland Saturday Market and under the Burnside Bridge, at which point it becomes NW Naito Parkway. Next, it has an interchange with the Steel Bridge, where it loses its Highway 99W designation, as that route crosses over the bridge to continue on N Interstate Avenue. The parkway continues north to pass under the Broadway and Fremont bridges. Naito Parkway ends just after the Fremont Bridge, at its intersection with NW 15th Avenue, although the street itself continues in a northwest direction as NW Front Avenue.[1]


The beginning of Naito Parkway coincided with the birth of Portland, when William P. Overton built his home along the waterfront in 1841.[3] In these early days of the city, Naito was known as Front Street, and was the center of the downtown commercial core.[4] Front consisted of a large levee, which was considered by many community members to be a public street, although a court ruling found it to be private in 1862.[3]

Front Street, 1852

The narrow strip of land between the Willamette River and Front's downtown section was occupied by a series of wharves, many of which were open to public use. This proximity to the river made Front an economic hub for the city. Many brick commercial buildings were constructed on the west side of Front, including the 1885 Fechheimer & White Building[5] and the 1857 Hallock–McMillan Building, which exists today as Portland's oldest extant building.[6]

After the arrival of the railroad, the river gradually ceased to be the primary means of shipping. Much of the river's shipping traffic had moved north, the commercial core had migrated west to Fourth and Fifth Avenue, and many buildings along the old downtown waterfront sat abandoned.[7] Many of the wharves along Front were torn down in 1929 in order to build a seawall and sewer interceptor.[3] Front Street was renamed Front Avenue in 1935.[8]

Front Street, 1876

The 1942 opening of Harbor Drive cut Front Avenue completely off from the river, and replaced it as the main thoroughfare along the waterfront.[4] Front was also widened as part of this project. All 79 buildings between Front and the river were torn down as a result of this project, including the Portland Public Market.[9]

By 1968, the Portland Bureau of Planning recommended the elimination of Harbor Drive, in order to expand the city's park system and give the public access to the waterfront.[10] Interstate 5 was completed in 1964 on the east bank of the river, and I-405 was completed on the west side in 1969. Completion of the Fremont Bridge in 1973 completed the city's current freeway loop, drastically reducing the need for Harbor Drive as a thoroughfare.[4] Harbor was closed in 1974 and demolition began to make way for Tom McCall Waterfront Park, once again making Front Avenue the nearest street to the west-side waterfront.[7]

In 1996, the city renamed Front Avenue to honor local investor, philanthropist, and civic leader Bill Naito.[11]

Naito Parkway has been used as a starting and finishing point in the Portland Marathon, and has been involved in media attention regarding mishaps in the race. In 2018, runners approaching the final stretch were delayed by a freight train crossing at the Steel Bridge.[12] In 2019, runners went off-route after missing a turn onto the Ross Island Bridge and continuing south on Naito.[13]

Starting in 2015, the Portland Bureau of Transportation began the Better Naito project, closing one northbound lane of Naito during the summer months in order to convert it into a cycle track and pedestrian area.[14] The bureau plans to make these changes permanent and year-round by 2020.[15]

Notable landmarks[edit]

Naito Parkway runs adjacent to many notable buildings and other landmarks, particularly as it passes through the Skidmore/Old Town Historic District.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Google (October 22, 2019). "Naito Parkway" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved October 22, 2019.
  2. ^ Young, Amalie (May 6, 2001). "One Step and You've Left Mill Ends Park". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c Reed, Henry (June 1, 1941). "Cavalcade of Front Avenue". Ernie Bonner Collection. Oregon Sustainable Community Digital Library. Paper 119. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Adopted West Quadrant Plan. City of Portland. March 5, 2015. p. 10. Retrieved October 24, 2015.
  5. ^ Portland Bureau of Planning (October 6, 2008). "Revised Documentation, National Historic Landmark Nomination: Skidmore/Old Town Historic District" (PDF). National Park Service. p. 31. Archived (PDF) from the original on August 12, 2016. Retrieved October 28, 2019.
  6. ^ Brink, Benjamin (February 13, 2010). "Portland's oldest buildings downtown offer a peek into the past". The Oregonian. Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  7. ^ a b Killen, John (June 18, 2015). "Throwback Thursday: In 1940s, Portland gained a freeway, lost old but impressive buildings". The Oregonian. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  8. ^ MacColl, E. Kimbark (1979). The Growth of a City: Power and Politics in Portland, Oregon, 1915 to 1950. Portland, Oregon: The Georgian Press Company. p. 512. ISBN 0-9603408-1-5.
  9. ^ Bonner, Ernest (2003). "Widening Front Avenue". Ernie Bonner Collection. Oregon Sustainable Community Digital Library. pp. 5–6. Paper 321. Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  10. ^ "1952 to 2001". Archives & Records Management. Office of the City Auditor. Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  11. ^ Orloff, Chet. "William Sumio Naito (1925–1996)". The Oregon Encyclopedia. Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  12. ^ San Roman, Katie (December 4, 2018). "It's Not a Sprint, It's the Portland Marathon". The Bridge. Portland Community College. Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  13. ^ Lorge Butler, Sarah (October 9, 2019). "New Portland Marathon is Mostly a Success". Runner's World. Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  14. ^ Portland Bureau of Transportation. "Better Naito: A New Way to the Waterfront". City of Portland. Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  15. ^ "Better Naito forever?". Portland, Oregon: KOIN-TV. July 25, 2019. Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  16. ^ "Skidmore/Old Town Historic District Design Guidelines". City of Portland. Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. Retrieved October 25, 2019.