So, what is the deal with the Pearl District in downtown Portland? It seems among (I almost used between) the food trucks, and Pearl, everything else in Portland has fallen off the map. Originally, it was known as the Industrial Triangle, not a love triangle, and certainly not an isosceles triangle. It was old railroad yards, and creepy old warehouses. All of a sudden, with urban renewal, and “LEED” certified buildings, this is the hot spot of Portland.
Most people think the Pearl District was named for the prize inside an oyster. Here is the story of its rebirth:
Much of the re-development of the Pearl District was the result of collaboration between the city and private sectors. In the early 1980s, the Pearl District became the focus of planning efforts by the Portland Development Commission. Work that ensued included an urban design study, followed by the 1988 Central City Plan, the 1992 River District Vision Plan and 1994 River District Development Plan. Those efforts culminated in the River District Urban Renewal Plan, which was adopted in 1998 and provided tax increment financing for improvements within the district. In 2000, a 26-member steering committee, comprised of city officials, developers, community leaders, planners, designers and others, representing a wide range of viewpoints, met monthly over the course of a year to discuss the future of the Pearl District, to re-evaluate current plans and policies, and to focus on the development priorities for the neighborhood. In addition to the steering committee, an executive committee met in between the steering committee meetings to provide advice on the planning process and to make initial recommendations to the steering committee. As a result, the ultimate vision for the Pearl was espoused in a 105-page document dubbed the “Pearl District Development Plan, A Future Vision for a Neighborhood in Transition”, and the plan was adopted in October of 2001 by the City Council.
Fast forward to today, and Pearl is all about shopping, dining, and living. It is the perfect mix (not really) of urban renewal. I cannot say I am crazy about the place. Why can’t more cities do this? How about Oakland, for instance?
I have visited Portland at least a dozen times over the years. I had a boss who was based up here for a few years. I got a good dose of liquid sunshine, and Portland area bars and restaurants. That was the Eighties, and really Portland was just about the Rose Garden and Nike, and maybe Jake’s Famous Crawfish (since 1892). I also visited the first “real” Nike factory outlet store, in a little strip mall. The world’s first shopping mall, Lloyd Center, was also built here.
I have jogged across the many bridges that cross the mighty Columbia River. Back then, the jogging craze, along with the huge growth of Nike dominated the sports scene here and everywhere. I even remember jogging through Eugene and the University of Oregon is a rain storm. Now, it seems bicycles have taken over. Perhaps the other Boomers, like myself, are trying to save the remaining cartilage in our knees and hips.
Getting back to the quirkiness of the area, the Lizard Lounge, sells more than just coffee, and free table tennis. They carry eco-minded clothing, as well as standards from good old Pendleton, the northwest version of Gap. I am also looking forward to visiting Icebreaker, a New Zealand based outdoors outfitter (too darn expensive), with many products based on merino wool. Keen Footwear is also a Portland based shoe supplier, along with a small, little-known company with a Swoosh. Portland is also the headquarters of Doc Martens, with more than 200 models, of shoes, that is. That was fairly impressive, along with Danner boots across the street.
Anyway, I look forward to getting reacquainted with this great northwest city. It is not Seattle, but it will be interesting and fun. I may even look up my old boss, if time permits. I did have a Voodoo Donut however. And I would say they are better than Top Pot in Seattle.