The Pearl District is a community built up of young urban professionals, families from all diversities, young and old families, students from all known lands, and relaxing retirees. The land was once known as dead real estate while formerly filled with warehouses, light industrial, and classification yards there was no urge to built a residential community. In the late 1990s an urban renewal plan began to take effect. Two of the biggest projects known are the removal of the Lovejoy viaduct and the construction of the Portland Streetcar. Since there have been several condominiums projects completed. The area can sometimes be mocked as a cluster of luxury condominiums; however, there is currently 4 income restricted buildings in the Pearl District (with another being constructed now). The plan emphasizes individuals from all backgrounds & occupations to be able to live in the Pearl.
The district is home to one of Portland’s biggest icons, Powell’s City of Books was founded in 1971 and has since grown to a full city block of books, measuring about 68,00 square feet or 1.6 acres of retail space. Powell’s has had several locations over the years, including a travel bookstore (closed in 2004), all have been strongly successful. In 2002, Powell’s was known as one of America’s 10 best bookstores by USA Today.
The district has two public plazas available for use; Jamison Square; and Tanner Springs Park; Jamison Square was completed in 2002 with a design focused around a fountain which allows access for cooing off, the square also serves as a multi-use space for the Portland Farmer’s Market; Tanner Springs park was completed in 2005, the design focuses on being natural with tall grasses and a creek.
The Pearl District Name
According to the Pearl District Business Association, Thomas Augustine is responsible for naming the district. His good friend Pearl Marie Amhara was a creative enthusiast that would visit him in Portland and specifically admired the then industrial Northwest Portland triangle. She would throw parties in the district for artists and fundraisers.
It was in the mid-1980s, a woman had just moved from Italy, she told Thomas, “she wanted to live with the cognoscenti [creatives].” Thomas replied that Portland is only 200 years and lacks such an area. He did however say, “there’s Pearl’s place.” After that Thomas began calling the area (soon to be neighborhood) “Pearl’s district.” It later transitioned into “Pearl District,” When it was quoted in an Alaskan Airlines magazine. Pearl Marie Mahara died in 1996 but knew the potential and that it held a name created by her good friend Thomas Augustine, “she was tickled by it,” Thomas said.
Some businesses still refer to area as the “brewery district” or “brewery blocks” but are fronded upon by local enthusiasts. A former well known brewery is the Weinhard Brewery, which shut down in 1999 due to its new owner the Miller Brewing company goals. It was later sold and redeveloped as the Brewery Blocks. Our resources indicate it was originally known as the Northwest Portland triangle district (heavy industrial).
Today the Pearl District has proven urban renewal success, winning awards both nationally and internationally —while remaining diverse through all its wealth —The Pearl District is a great place to live and experience.