Keep Portland Weird
I grew up in Portland but have not actually lived there for decades. I do still live a few miles from Portland and I’m proud of it. Can “Keep Portland Weird” be a winning strategy? Apparently so! [icopyright one button toolbar]
From across the country, Portland looms as this place where everything comes in quirkier, locally produced, more artisanal versions of what the rest of us have. And then when you come out here, it turns out that all of these things are actually true. The Portland of public imagination is, in fact, Portland in reality.
So is this good news for Portland? The answer is yes!
These attributes are helping Portland win a fierce competition among cities for young college grads — Americans in their 20s and early 30s – who have been flooding the downtown-ish neighborhoods of decently big metros like Portland over the past decade.
By 2012, metro Portland had 34,545 more 25-to-34 year-olds with bachelor’s degrees than it did in 2000, according to American Community Survey data that Cortright just analyzed for the research site City Observatory. That’s an increase, of about 37 percent, that’s outpaced similar gains in New York (25 percent), Los Angeles (30 percent) and even — barely — metropolitan Washington, D.C. (36 percent).
Portland is succeeding in large part because the long-term direction of the city happens to align with what these young people prize today. The college grads decamping for Portland probably don’t say “I’d like to live somewhere with an urban growth boundary!” But that policy is partly responsible for producing the things about Portland that now draw them here: the compact living, the easy access to nature, the possibility that a farm might actually be near your table, the emphasis on communal assets — parks, public transit, tool shares (people kept telling me about the tool shares) — over individual ownership.
Of course there is a downside, the middle class neighborhood I grew up in is now an upper class neighborhood. The new demographics and priorities have made “gentrification” inevitable.