In Future Portland, the jumble of newsracks that stand on streetcorners may be a bygone.

Last week, under a plan to clean up downtown, the Portland Business Alliance cut the ribbon on the fancy new racks that will replace the individual stands with boxes that hold a eight newspapers (including the Mercury). Behold!
Four of these new $3,500 racks have gone in around Pioneer Square, in a year-long private and publicly funded pilot project. The Portland Bureau of Transportation is paying for the cost of the newsracks, which are then maintained by Clean & Safe workers. On the corners with these racks, the old, messier racks will be illegal. If the city likes the way the racks work, the stands will likely spread around downtown.

I thought this was kind of a naggy non-issue of people who would prefer downtown to look like Multnomah Village. But on my way to the ribbon cutting last week, I stopped off at Give Pizza a Chance for the best $5, 5-minute lunch in Portland and pizza-slinging owner Scott Davison struck up conversation about how bad the current jumble of racks are. On the corner of SW 5th and Stark, right in the middle of the busy food cart pod, seven racks take up a substantial chunk of the sidewalk—only four racks are actually for newspapers, the rest hold advertisements for apartments and houses.
"They were clear out the the middle of the sidewalk, blocking traffic. There wasn't room to put out our sign," said Davison.
"It's a blight!" chimed in another customer, through mouthfuls of pizza.

The new newsracks are much cleaner and insure that sloppy newsprint apartment advertisers don't get free space on city sidewalks. On the other hand, if a new newspaper pops up in town, they could have a higher barrier to getting out onto the streets. If the Portland Business Alliance thinks they're worth the cost, they could be all over downtown in a few years.