The Pearl District, Portland, Oregon

The Pearl District is an area of Portland, Oregon, formerly occupied by warehouses, light industry and railroad classification yards and now noted for its art galleries, upscale businesses and residences. The area has been undergoing significant urban renewal since the mid-1980s when it was reclassified as mixed use from industrial,[4] including the arrival of artists, the removal of a viaduct and construction of the Portland Streetcar. It now mostly consists of high-rise condominiums and warehouse-to-loft conversions.

The area is located just north of downtown between West Burnside Street on the south, the Willamette River on the north, NW Broadway on the east and the Interstate 405 freeway on the west.[5]

The area is home to several Portland icons, including Powell’s City of Books. The former Weinhard Brewery, which operated continuously from 1864 to September 1999, was shut down by Stroh’s upon the purchase of the Weinhard’s brand by Miller Brewing and sold for redevelopment as the Brewery Blocks.[6] Art galleries and institutions (many who stage monthly receptions), boutiques, and restaurants abound, and there are also a number of small clubs and bars. The United States Post Office main processing facility for all of Oregon and southwestern Washington was built in the Pearl District in 1964, next to Union Station. This location was chosen in order for the post office to be able to better serve towns outside the Portland metro area.[citation needed]

The district includes most of the historic[citation needed] North Park Blocks (1869), as well as two public plazas:

  • Jamison Square (2002) is built around a fountain which simulates a tidal pool that is periodically filled by artificial waterfalls and then drained into grating.
  • Tanner Springs Park (2005) is a re-created natural area featuring wetlands, a walking trail, and creek.

A future dog park titled “The Fields” is planned for the Northern part of the Pearl.[7] It is expected to open near the end of 2012.Free wireless internet (provided by Personal Telco) is available in the Pearl District.

History[edit]

Aerial view from 1988, prior to redevelopment; the Pearl District lies in the center of the image

The area was formerly used for warehousing, light industrial purposes and a railroad yard and was known as the “Northwest Industrial Triangle”.[8]

In the 1990s, an elevated portion of NW Lovejoy Street from the Broadway Bridge past NW 10th Avenue was demolished, opening dozens of surrounding blocks (including some brownfieldsites) for development, which peaked in the 2000s. The viaduct was notable for having columns painted by a railroad watchman who worked below; two of them have been saved.[9] The increasing density has attracted a mix of restaurants, brewpubs, shops, and art galleries, though in some cases pioneering tenants have been priced out of the area[citation needed].

According to the Pearl District Business Association, Thomas Augustine, a local gallery owner, coined the name Pearl District around the turn of the millennium to suggest that some of its urban decay industrial buildings were like crusty oysters, and that the galleries and artists’ lofts within were like pearls.[citation needed] As local business people were looking to label the growing area—the “warehouse district” or the “brewery district” were two suggestions—a writer for Alaska Airlines borrowed and popularized Augustine’s phrase.[citation needed]

The movie Drugstore Cowboy (1989), by Gus Van Sant, has several scenes shot in the neighborhood.

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