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The Heart of the Weird

Just across the Willamette River from downtown, Portland’s Central Eastside blends warehouses, train tracks and a rising tide of restaurants, microbreweries and after-hours hot spots, plus access to riverside recreation.

In the 1990s, the technology industry began to emerge in Portland, specifically with the establishment of companies like Intel, which brought more than $10 billion in investments in 1995 alone.[44] After the year 2000, Portland experienced significant growth, with a population rise of over 90,000 between the years 2000 and 2014. The city’s increased presence within the cultural lexicon has established it as a popular city for young people, and it was second only to Louisville, Kentucky as one of the cities to attract and retain the highest number of college-educated people in the United States.[46] Between 2001 and 2012, Portland’s gross domestic product per person grew fifty percent, more than any other city in the country.

The city has acquired a diverse range of nicknames throughout its history, though it is most often called “Rose City” or “The City of Roses”, the latter of which has been its unofficial nickname since 1888 and its official nickname since 2003. Another widely used nickname by local residents in everyday speech is “PDX”, which is also the airport code for Portland International Airport. Other nicknames include Bridgetown, Stumptown, Rip City, Soccer City, P-Town, Portlandia, and the more antiquated Little Beirut.

Portland is often awarded “Greenest City in America” and similar designations. Popular Science awarded Portland the title of the Greenest City in America in 2008, and Grist magazine listed it in 2007 as the second greenest city in the world. The city became a pioneer of state-directed metropolitan planning, a program which was instituted statewide in 1969 to compact the urban growth boundaries of the city.

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The city of the late 19th century

The city of East Portland was founded on a 640-acre (260 ha) land claim by James B. Stephens in 1846, who bought the claim from John McLoughlin of the Hudson’s Bay Company. The city was incorporated in 1871.

Stephens platted the land from the Willamette River to East First Street, and from today’s Glisan Street to present Hawthorne Boulevard. Much of the land east of the river was marshy and crossed by creeks and sloughs, so it was less desirable than Portland river front property on the west side of the Willamette River. Development was difficult and expensive since many streets had to be built on trestles.

A few years after Stephens acquired his land, Gideon Tibbetts filed a Donation Land Claim for 640 acres (260 ha) south of what is now Division Street in southeast Portland. Tibbetts founded the first flour mill on the east side of the Willamette, planted extensive orchards, and raised hay on part of his claim. He platted some of this land in the Brooklyn neighborhood, and platted an addition to East Portland. Tibbetts later sold some parcels and his flour mill to Stephens. The value of East Portland waterfront property skyrocketed in 1869, when the East-Side Oregon Central Railroad connecting East Portland and Salem was completed. Railroad magnate Ben Holladay established ferry service across the Willamette to Portland from the northern terminus of the railroad about that time; the boat was superseded in 1880 by the Oregon & California Railroad Ferry No. 2, put into service by Henry Villard, and later by the Steel and Morrison bridges.

On July 6, 1891, the cities of East Portland, Albina and Portland merged as the city of Portland, Oregon. At the time, the population of East Portland was estimated to be 11,457. In about the same year, Ladd’s Addition, which lay between the Stephens and Tibbetts land claims, was converted from farm land to a residential neighborhood.

The modern district in the eastern part of Portland

The term East Portland now refers to the portion of the city east of 82nd Avenue, where approximately 28% of Portland’s population resides. Much of Portland’s black and minority population have moved east of 82nd Avenue, as of 2011, in a trend that was expected to continue.

In March 2015, a group called East Portland de-Annexation Secession filed a measure with the City of Portland, and are petitioning to secede from Portland. However, Deborah Scroggin, Portland’s election officer, rejected the petition because it did not meet requirements of Section 1 (2) (d) and (5) Article IV of the Oregon Constitution. Collene Swenson, a resident of East Portland, said that she will draft the new initiative, with the help of lawyers. Over the last five years, east Portland’s Hazelwood neighborhood there were almost 1,000 more calls for police, due to serious and violent crime, than were made downtown. The city classifies crime in clusters, the most serious, are part-one crimes, and includes, murder, rape but also larceny and burglary. Hazelwood, with over 23,462 residents covering 2,625 acres, is one of the largest neighborhoods in Portland. The neighborhood has about 2.31 of part-one crimes per person. Of the top 35 most dangerous neighborhoods, there are 13 located in east Portland, and nine with over 2,000 calls for police service on serious and violent crime, way above the average for a Portland city neighborhood.

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Guide to North Portland

This 31-foot-tall statue of Paul Bunyan greets visitors to North Portland. It was created in 1959 to mark Oregon’s centennial and was recognized as a “well-crafted example of roadside architecture” according to the National Register of Historical Places. The Paul Bunyan statue is Oregon’s only roadside architecture in the register. Located just off I-5 when coming into town (and just across from the Kenton/N. Denver Avenue MAX station when already there), Paul is super easy to find. He stands watch over a busy intersection and is one of many things that helps to “keep Portland weird.”

The statue was commissioned by the Kenton Businessman’s Club to greet the millions of visitors to the Centennial Exposition, set up at the current-day Expo Center in North Portland at a time when Interstate Avenue was the main gateway to Portland.

Many people regard the neighborhoods of North Portland as the area of opportunity. If you review appreciation in the Portland metro area the last few years, you will find that North Portland has been at or near the top for the last few years.

In 2002, the average price of a home in North Portland was $146,300 and by 2013 the average price has increased to $266,800. The average price change was 16.2 percent in 2013. Back in 2001 North Portland had the highest home value appreciation (7.3 percent over the year 2000) in the Portland metro area as well as the lowest average price ($134,100) within the city.

The Interstate MAX Yellow Line, a 5.8-mile segment, has sparked even more interest in the North. The MAX Yellow Line connects the Expo Center in North Portland with downtown and the rest of the transit system. It opened in the Spring of 2004.

Location and Some History

North Portland is a diverse mixture of residential, commercial, and industrial areas. It includes the Portland International Raceway, the University of Portland, and massive cargo facilities of the Port of Portland. Slang-names for it include “NoPo” (shortened from North Portland) and “the Fifth Quadrant” (for being the odd-man out from the four-cornered logic of SE, NE, SW, and NW).

North Portland is connected to the industrial area of Northwest Portland by the St. Johns Bridge, a 2,067 foot long suspension bridge completed in 1931 and extensively rehabilitated in 2003–05.

During World War II, a planned development named Vanport was constructed to the north of this section between the city limits and the Columbia River. It grew to be the second largest city in Oregon, but was wiped out by a disastrous flood in 1948. Columbia Villa, another wartime housing project in the Portsmouth Neighborhood, was rebuilt; the renewed community opened in 2005 is known as New Columbia and offers public housing, rental housing, and single family home ownership units. Crime in downtown Portland gets a lot of media attention. Police arrested two suspects in connection with a 43-year-old man who was fatally stabbed downtown the week before. The tiny Eliot Neighborhood in North Portland, with its 3,611 people in 560 acres, which has a part-one rate of 1.86 crimes per person. North Portland had three neighborhoods in the top ranks - Kenton, Portsmouth and St. Johns.

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Guide to Northeast Portland

If you’re looking for urban living, historic homes, tree-lined streets, city parks, and street shopping instead of malls, you’ll want to consider Northeast Portland.

Originally one of Portland’s streetcar suburbs, Northeast Portland underwent a great building boom from 1890–1913. During that time, Northeast Broadway, one of the district’s main thoroughfares, evolved naturally into a busy strip of restaurants and shops needed to support Portland’s growing eastside population. Although modern automobile travel and convenient MAX light rail service render many of the Northeast neighborhoods a quick 7–10 -minute jaunt to Portland’s downtown core, Northeast Portland seems charmingly detached from the bustle of the city center.

The seeds of gentrification were planted during World War II, when African Americans from the South flowed into Portland to take jobs in the shipyards. Portland officials and community members, from real estate agents to bankers, pushed the black community into a small area called Lower Albina, near the present-day Rose Quarter, through redlining and other now-illegal practices. White Portlanders fled, and the city began a long pattern of disinvestment. Street and sidewalk repairs were neglected, and the city did little to develop businesses or enforce housing codes, said Dr. Karen Gibson, the PSU professor, who wrote a study in 2007 called Bleeding Albina: A History of Community Disinvestment, 1940–2000.

Farmers Markets

  • Hollywood Farmers Market Northeast Hancock Street between 44th and 45th avenues. Saturdays mornings, May-November.
  • King Neighborhood Farmers Market Northeast 7th Avenue and Wygant Street. Late morning to early afternoon on Sundays, May-October.
  • Lloyd Farmers Market Oregon Square at Northeast Holladay Street between 7th and 9th avenues. Tuesdays, June-September.

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Guide to Northwest Portland

Someone once made the remark that Portland’s Northwest was Boston’s Beacon Hill without the dress code. The dress code in Portland is a bit relaxed as Gore-Tex is more common than cashmere. One similarity between Boston and the Northwest of Portland is both share narrow streets.

Perhaps you have heard the Everclear musical group’s song with the line, “I will buy you that big house, way up in the Northwest.” Everclear is from Portland, and they are referring to Portland’s Northwest where Everclear’s founder Art Alexakis lived in the late 90s.

Carl Abbott, in his book Greater Portland, talks about the development of the Northwest. Below is a quote:

“The advent of family automobiles opened the steep slopes to the west to residential development. By the 1920s the Northwest were Portland’s new elite district. For three generations the affluent highlanders of King’s Heights, Arlington Heights, Willamette Heights, Portland Heights, and Council Crest have enjoyed views of Mount Hood and ten-minute commutes to downtown offices. Separated by elevation from the lower income residents of the downtown fringe, successful businessmen, ambitious professionals, and monied families have been able to maintain social status and leafy living without needing to flee to suburbia.”

It certainly easy to understand why someone who works downtown would want to live in the Northwest. But the Northwest is also home to many of the computer chip workers located in Hillsboro as well as Nike employees who work at the corporate headquarters in Beaverton — these communities are located on the far west side of the Portland metro area. Rather than live in the suburbs close to their work, many chose the Northwest. They prefer the classic architectural style of older homes, the quality education available in the Northwest area public schools, and to be close to a vibrant downtown.

Just as you get to know your U.S. Postal Service carrier, the person has gone on to a different route. It usually one with a flat terrain. Most carriers don’t like the winding roads and if they walk their route, it up and down the hills so it makes for a sturdy soul. This is all due to the seniority system and bidding on routes. So as soon as they get some seniority, off they go to the flat lands.

Northwest Location From downtown look West and you’ll see the Northwest. The hills extend along a ridge that covers both the northwest and southwest (south and north of Burnside Street). A simple definition is that area to the immediate west of downtown where many of the homes offer a view such as the one in the photo above. The following are Northwest neighborhoods: Arlington Heights, Council Crest, Hillside, Forest Heights, Forest Park, Northwest Heights, and Portland Heights.

Northwest Hills Neighborhoods of Winding Roads, Hills, and Classic Homes

The Northwest are littered with historic homes and even a couple of castles. Common styles found in the hills include English Cottage, Foursquare, Colonial, Tudor, and Arts & Crafts. Most Northwest homes were built in the early part of the 20th Century. Many homeowners in the hills have built additions and/or updated their Northwest home so what started as a home with a definite style in its original state, is today a home lacking any architectural style.

When “pier” construction (concrete piers with steel and/or wooden beams) began in the late 1950s, builders began to construct homes on steeper lots. Today, contemporary homes are being built on narrow and steep lots. These modern homes are multi-level structures with lots of glass. Many homes in the Northwest are without a lawn – just lots of scrubs, flowering plants, and roses.

The downside of living in the Northwest is driving the up and down winding roads. The Northwest is not a grid layout. Few streets run in one direction. Another thing about Northwest living; you may experience a short power outage or two during the winter, usually during a wind or ice storm. A fallen tree or a large branch is usually the culprit.

Northwest Slides

During the winters of 1996–97, when the Portland area received record rainfall, the Northwest had over 350 slides (the entire metro area had 630 plus slides). The majority of the slides caused minor damages but a few wiped out homes and a some caused structural problems to homes. Many people were shocked to learn that their standard insurance policy didn’t cover slides.

Because of the ’96 slides, the City of Portland requires geotechnical engineers in slide hazard zones to drill soil samples, evaluate the firmness of underlying soils and measure depths to bedrock. The city requires geotechnical reviews at new building sites or for major remodeling projects, existing homes and buildings do not get the same scrutiny.

As a result of the renewed study, what became better known is that most of the homes in the West Hills are built on glacial loess –windblown glacial particles. The windblown silt ranges from a few feet deep in some places to 100 feet in others over basalt. Although most have survived just fine through decades of Oregon rainstorms, there can still be problems. Portland State University Bill Burns states that “The particles are not as packed together as they could be, which makes them more moisture sensitive. Combine that with the steep slopes and the risk for landslides goes way up.”

Why People Live in the Northwest

Northwests doctors, lawyers, VPs, managers, and small business owners have one of the shortest commutes in the USA; just minutes to their downtown office. Evenings, they can attend a performance downtown and be sound asleep in the Northwests home minutes after the outing. While they sleep, their contemporaries are still driving the freeway heading to their home in the suburbs.

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Guide to Southeast Portland

The southeast has more of a middle-class feel, with charming old homes, packed coffeehouses and offbeat clothing stores. Some say that Southeast is where the “real” people live.Cross over the Willamette River from downtown and you’re in the Southeast’s Central Eastside Industrial District, home to the industrial plants that provide thousands of jobs for Portlanders. It’s also home to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

Many eastside residents take the Hawthorne Bridge (photo on the left) to enter the downtown area or leave it. This beautiful photograph of the bridge was taken by Adrienne Cleveland of Portland.

Travel east from the Central Industrial District a mile or so and you’ll run into the Hawthorne area. The Hawthorne and nearby Belmont districts are filled with single-family homes and apartment buildings. Bakeries, coffeehouses, boutiques, music and bookstores, micro-pubs, and restaurants line the two streets.

Southeast Portland’s Hawthorne Boulevard supports a thriving district that is full of activity. Here, high-density housing meshes with retail activity, creating one of the city’s more interesting shopping areas — pedestrian friendly, lined with gift stores, period clothing shops, eateries, and espresso shops.

Big Burn of 1846

In 1846, a forest fire that began on the slopes of Mt. Scott burned off most of the timber as far north as the Columbia River. This event had a profound effect on the settlement of the east side. Up until that year, much of the land east of the river was heavily wooded. The trees were soon replaced with coarse grasses. The area was so thoroughly cleared that the setting of farms was a simple matter not requiring the time-consuming and back-breaking job of clearing.

Killing the Eastside Freeway and Preserving Urban Living

One event defines Portland in the past 25 years! It was killing the Mount Hood Freeway, a 6-mile, eight-lane asphalt highway that would have vaulted across the Willamette River from Johns Landing to I-205.

The story of the freeway’s demise is a lesson in what distinguishes Portland from other West Coast cities. Whereas most cities were building freeways after WWII, Portland was preserving neighborhoods. It gave us strong neighborhoods, proud schools and MAX (light rail). It cemented the region’s commitment to ecology and the reputation of a brilliant political leader, Neil Goldschmidt. Stopping the freeway not only saved 1,750 households in Southeast Portland from the wrecking ball, it also established Portland’s philosophy of urban livability-the idea that cities are for people, not just for commerce and cars.

In 1975 Portland took the $500 million in federal highway aid and built the transit mall, eastside MAX and a host of neighborhood and suburban transportation projects, such as Eastman Parkway in Gresham and Cornell Road in Hillsboro. Most of the money went to the light rail system.

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Guide to Southwest Portland

If you asked a hundred or so Southwest Portland residents why they chose to live on the “West Side” instead of the “East Side,” most would give you three reasons: schools, they like hilly terrain, and it all seems “close in.” You may also hear things like “safe neighborhoods” and “parks.”

The area of Southwest Portland is home to many of the city’s attractions such as the International Rose Test Garden, Japanese Gardens, Hoyt Arboretum, Children’s Museum, and Oregon Zoo. And they are only minutes from downtown.

Where is Southwest Portland?

West Burnside Street is the boundary on the north and the Willamette River is the east boundary. The south boundary going from east to west is Lake Oswego and Tigard. The city of Beaverton is the west boundary. Healy Height’s in Portland’s West Hills is the safest neighborhood in Portland with only 12 calls to police over part-one crimes in five years.

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Guide to Downtown

Downtown contains many of the city’s iconic features, such as tall buildings, Pioneer Courthouse Square, museums, performance halls, civic buildings, the Willamette River and Waterfront Park, and historic bridges.

Downtown has been shaped by centuries of history, from Native Americans to the settlement era; the expansion of commerce and trade; urban renewal; urban flight; and renewed efforts at revitalization and residential development.

Downtown can continue to be the most important gathering place for Portlanders and visitors, as well as a center for innovation and exchange.

Downtown is the economic and symbolic heart of the region and the preeminent location for office employment, retail, tourism, arts and culture, entertainment, government, urban living, and ceremonial activities. At the center of the region’s multimodal transportation system, and anchored by the Willamette River and signature public spaces, it is the most intensely urban and easily recognized district in Portland’s Central City.

The site of Portland’s earliest commercial development, the Old Town/Chinatown area is rich in culture and historic buildings that evoke the city’s early years. More than 40 percent of the area lies within two historic districts: the Skidmore/Old Town Historic District and New Chinatown/Japantown Historic District.

Skidmore/Old Town is home to one of the largest collections of 19th century commercial cast iron buildings in the country and is designated as a National Historic Landmark. New Chinatown/Japantown commemorates Portland’s 19th and early 20th century Asian heritage.

NW Broadway runs through the western portion of the area, connecting downtown to iconic Union Station and the Broadway Bridge.

Old Town & Chinatown

Old Town/Chinatown is a vibrant, resilient, 24-hour neighborhood rooted in a rich cultural and historical past. The district’s two thriving historic districts, numerous multi-cultural attractions and higher education institutions foster a thriving mix of office employers, creative industry start-ups, retail shops and a range of entertainment venues, restaurants and special events.

The district has a balanced mix of market rate, student and affordable housing. Its social service agencies continue to play a critical public health role within the Portland region. The district has a mix of human-scaled, restored historic buildings and contextually sensitive infill development.

It is well connected to the rest of the Central City and the region through excellent multi-modal transportation facilities and safe and attractive street connections to adjacent neighborhoods and an active riverfront.

Old Town/Chinatown, houses 3,922 people in just 198 acres, and has a rate of 1.20 crimes per person.

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Guide to the Shadow

The Shadow of portland is a tangled maze of old and new overlapping, In the shadow Grand trees stand in the center of a building that is nothing more than flimsy walls and reflective surfaces. Spirits of nature and artificial spirits caught in a merciless give-and-take, the two seem constantly at war.

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