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There was just an article in Oregonian yesterday about 82nd Ave by Carl Abbott. Despite being ugly and neglected it is the place that works and is necessary... much in the way people 50 years ago began to look at the inner city neighborhoods (back when they still had industry).

I agree, this present equalibrium probably is the best time especially in the Pearl since there still are the old auto-body shops and small industrial firms providing a nice mix and contrast to the brand new spotless condos rising. Soon it will be all expensive retailers, businesses and condos and while it will be successful for property owners, the neighborhood will be less healthy in another way... you wont have those interesting stores selling random yet cool crap that need old low rent bldgs, you wont have the artists giving the neighborhood the funky vibe. The rising values drive out the diversity (of people, uses, age of buildings etc). Already the Pearl has many retailers that all sell the same thing all of which are the businesses that can pay the high rents... coffee shops, hair salons, real estate agents, womens clothing, wine bars, hipster furniture etc.

These are essentially the points Jane Jacobs argues in her book the Death and Life of Great American Cities, that diversity is the best thing for cities and neighborhoods, yet successful neighborhoods kill diversity over time as they become more monotonous.


A beautiful post that I wholeheartedly agree with. That's my comment.


I think rate of change has a lot to do with whether neighborhoods come to lack cultural, economic and architectural diversity. To use the example from Brian's post: I like the "new" Pearl district and think it's a good thing overall for Portland, but there's no denying that it has changed so quickly along one track that it already is lacking in cultural and economic diversity and is going further in that direction. Fortunately, the district is being built up in an era when urban dwellers have come to value old buildings (nearby, if not necessarily to live in), so it has retained much of its old physical character. And its architectural diversity has arguably been enhanced with the addition of new buildings. The Pearl seems kind of weird, though, in that its old buildings for the most part don't perform their old functions. I don't sneer at the district's upscale restaurants and bars or the warehouses converted to residential lofts (sneering seems to be the "authentic" Portlander's facial expression of choice when talking about the Pearl), but I have to admit that the place is kind of one-note. Despite its varied, fascinating outward appearance, it's pretty much all about the good life, where everyone has plenty of money and leisure time and no one gets his hands dirty. (Which is by no means an entirely bad thing; I like the good life and could do with more of it.)

In general, though, there are a lot of areas of Portland that are in that between state that Brian rightly values. People in Portland often talk about the "tremendous" changes that streets or neighborhoods like those surrounding Division, Hawthorne, Belmont, SE 28th or Mississippi have undergone over the past decade, but for every new restaurant or condominium in those areas there are still several rundown houses and apartments or messy old-line businesses. I think we tend to exaggerate the rate of change taking place in most of Portland because for so many years the city had been so strangely static. Now things are changing, but I would guess that most urban areas of Portland will retain their "betweenness" for many years to come. Today's new buildings, after all, do become tomorrow's middle-aged ones and the day after's old ones. The important thing, it seems to me, is to not rush that life-cycle along too fast. We certainly don't need any more South Auditorium urban renewal areas like the one that came out of the 1960s, and maybe we don't even need any more Pearl districts.


Terrific post, I'll leave it at that.



I personally feel that Portland should have done anything in its power to preserve the view of Mt. Hood from the eastbound tunnel on 26. It wasn't able to, and now we get to look at the lovely KOIN tower instead. Having grown up here I can tell you that was an iconic vision of great importance, and it is gone forever (realtively speaking).

Your assertion that "Mt. Hood can hold its own" is, at best, shortsighted. The code preserved views that Gragg wrote of will effect very little possible development within the downtown core (I think). If they do, the City could offer any number of incentives to property owners to preserve them. They should be untouchable. In fact, you could argue that a few more could be added to that list.

Sometimes you only miss something AFTER it's gone.



"Betweenness" is by definition transitional, and while this quality of betweenness can perhaps be identified in various gentrifying Portland neighborhoods, the basic process of redevelopment tends to encourage only more of itself. At best we see replacement under the guise of renovation, and this far more often than we see any real preservation. ("Incorporating historical elements" indeed.)

Betweenness is a somewhat too precious term to be of use, in my opinion. Of course there are evolutionary steps in the narratives of renewal on display in almost every close-in district. But what gives an area its "betweenness" is exactly the same thing that makes it attractive to speculators, developers, and nationally-rooted business, all of whom can continue to prosper by eliminating more and more of an area's original charm and flavor.

The Pearl district (with its annoyingly drummed-up moniker) is perhaps not the best example, as it was neither exactly a neighborhood, nor exactly a thriving manufacturing area, when development started sprucing it up. But to call it "one note" is surely an understatement, no matter how few or many of the original businesses have been encouraged to follow the example of Wink's Hardware and let the luxury kitchen-accessory chain stores etc have their way.

Betweenness has its attractions, to be sure. But it's a curtain-call.

mike conroy

I remember the pearl before it was the pearl in the late 80s. there was henry weinhards and some light industry but there were also a lot of neglected or abandoned buildings and warehouses. the streets were usually quiet and smelled of either beer hops or urine. it definately wasn't thriving back then when they started having first thursday. today it's a different story with all the condos and restaurants giving old structures new life. its a pity though that they had to cover up some of the old cobble stones. I think that if the pearl wants to flourish, there should be more provisions for affordable housing or else they'll have to bus in baristas from the suburbs.


Forgive me for drifting a bit off-topic, but....

Perhaps if focused more on creating beautiful vistas from where we live, work, walk, and recreate (as opposed to creating beautiful vistas from automobiles in the middle of our commutes), our community might give us more of that sense of place that Jane Jacobs spoke so fondly of.


So much of the world we allow to be created for us is market driven, so it's pretty hard to expect many past memories of place, commomnly found in a state of between-ness, to be sustained for non-business reasons.

Walking into town, way up on Salmon crossing S.W.11th, there'd be the condensed moisture fog rising from Henry's stack and the immistakeable hoppy aroma. I liked that smell, and didn't at the same time, but it was a defining association for hundreds of thousands of people for generations. Gone now, and for what?

There's a real tendency to take this slick up mentality too far. The Pearl before yuppiedom smelled like hops and occasionally pee, but it was also a quiet place you could walk in the evenings and on Sunday, over gravelly, dusty streets, some with train rails. You could walk north on a gradual downhill incline and see the pale late afternoon sky illuminated by the sun.

They could at least have let the one last remaining gravel street be, but no, this had to be slicked up too. A potential customer might drive away rather than get their shiny car dusty. How would women walk on that gravel with 4" high heels?

It was nice though, to switch from walking over the hard, dull asphalt to the crunchy gravel, just to get a sense of the old days when the pearl was a working neighborhood. The change in sound was somehow calming and soothing.

Manhattan recently rid itself of the Fulton Street Fish Market. I'd never been there. Guess it was a rat-trap collection of buildings. For I don't know how long, though, I've known that name. It was that business with its pervasive odor cheek to jowl with NYC's highest income real estate, that allowed it to strike an idellible impression on millions of people over the decades. If you'd never been there, chances are you knew about it anyways from references made by ordinary people in their diaries, writers, writers, film-makers and more.

Such things are part of what makes the soul of communities and cities. They don't have to be completely eradicated, but tend to be when those who aren't absolutely locked-stepped into a business mentality choose not to take a risk, saying nothing.


Since I moved to Portland a year ago, I've heard lots of PDXers complain about the Pearl being too slick and too yuppified, and I have to ask myself: Are these people talking about the same neighborhood I'm living in?

I love the romantic recollections of the "old" Pearl just posted here by ws. So I just want to point out that most or all of the charms about which ws rhapsodizes still exist here: I smell that hoppy aroma in the blocks around BridgePort Brewery all the time. I hear the train whistles every night. Weekday mornings and Sunday evenings are still blissfully quiet. And every time I look around my apartment, I'm reminded that this is not only the best place I've ever lived, it's also the dustiest by far.

New York may have lost its Fulton Fish Market, but I hear the Pearl is about to get one of its own, in the old Crane building, sometime soon. The neighborhood has certainly been prettied up in recent years, but it's still very much a real place, with real character. And can anyone argue that it's not a better place now that many thousands of people call it home?


"And can anyone argue that it's not a better place now that many thousands of people call it home?"

No, and it's really weird that people even try to make the argument.

The Pearl is a Portland success story, a demonstration of what ideal growth looks like. And it has expanded our culture in amazing and unexpected ways, from Jameson Park to the Kenny Scharf Totems.

The fact that it continues to grow is a testiment to Portland's strength in design and urban planning.

People hate change I guess, or they wish for all change to look the same. Portland has a rich, diverse culture, and the Pearl is as important to our success as any of our many wonderful neighborhoods.

mike conroy

has anyone been to tanner springs park? I was there today and just loved it. I remember reading somewhere that people were complaining about how nobody utilizes it but I saw several people there today and it was quite peaceful just as it was intended to be. A quiet respit from the urban environment quickly growing around it. I know people might dis the pearl but it is quickly filling a gap for those seeking a sense of community that they might not have had living in a cul-de-sac. It might seem like a yuppee playground but there are still renters and artists and mechanics down there and aint it nice to see soccer moms shopping in there tennis shoes rather than behind the wheel of a gas guzzling SUV?


"And can anyone argue that it's not a better place now that many thousands of people call it home?"

Hm. Probably not anyone who just showed up in the last few years. People who've lived here for almost a half a century, like myself, don't feel we need to have our city explained for us. Let's just see how the "pearl" looks in 20 years or so. Let's see how that craftsmanship holds up. But let's not think we can know what's up with a town just by arriving and enjoying.


82nd WORKS?! It's full of used car dealerships, fast food joints, cheap chinese restaurants, and hookers!

I hardly see how the street 'works.' Have you ever tried walking down it late at night? I dare you!

Certain parts of it, such as on Stark street west of 82nd, may be slowly improving, but as a whole 82nd is a nasty, nasty place. I almost wonder if tanks in sandbag barricades might help it feel safer sometimes.


Not the street itself, but that area does work because it is "full of used car dealerships, fast food joints, cheap chinese restaurants, and hookers!"

I dont like the area but I think its hard to deny that its not a busy and rather vibrant part of town (albeit in an auto-centric way).

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