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Picture: Brief History of The Pearl
  Picture: Brief History of The Pearl

The dynamic residential and commercial neighborhood area now known as The Pearl District was platted as a portion of Couch’s Addition in 1869. Over the ensuing decades the region became occupied by warehouses, industry and railroad classification yards (used to separate railroad cars on to one of several tracks) and became known as the Northwest Industrial Triangle.

As the neighborhood’s industry left the city for the suburbs in the 1980s, the necessity for vast rail yards and their immense warehouses was greatly reduced. Over time the area became run-down and largely abandoned by the industries that had built and defined it. The neighborhood became a location for artists seeking cheap studio space. The naming origin of the Pearl is based on its urban decay. Industrial buildings were like crusty oysters, and that the galleries and artists' lofts within were like pearls. The credit for the name is given to Portland gallery director/owner Thomas Augustine. There is also an alternative version of the story that holds that the district is named for a friend of Augustine, named Pearl Marie Amhara.

In 1994 Hoyt St Properties acquired 34 acres of the old Burlington Northern Rail Yards and began a $600,000,000 urban redevelopment project. Some of the first housing developments were completed in that period: The Pearl Lofts building (1009 NW Hoyt), The City Lofts at 1011 NW Glisan, originally built in 1905 was converted to lofts, The Irving Street Townhomes at 1107-1135 NW Irving in 1995, The Hoyt Commons in 1996, The Chown Pella Lofts located at 416 NW 13th, was converted to condos the same year.

Initial development was slowed by the existence of the Lovejoy Ramp, a viaduct which monopolized a massive portion of the area. In 1997, a Development Agreement with the City of Portland was finalized. Its goal was to bring high-density housing to this underutilized portion of the city and the ramp was razed. Over the ensuing 15 years with help from of generous tax abatement and radical infrastructure improvements, the pattern of converting warehouses to lofts and the construction of new condominiums has radically transformed what was once an industrial rail-yard site into a mixed-use, world-class community. The Pearl District has become one of Portland’s most desirable, livable and vibrant communities.


Categories: Portland History
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