Posted By Kate Washington on April 7, 2012
Organized by PDNA Livability Committee. Questions? Please email or call Leigh Eicher at 503/ 719 5608.
Thank you to our generous sponsors:
-Whole Foods Market
-On Deck Sports Bar and Grill
-Chipotle Mexican Grill
-Peet’s Coffee and Tea
-Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability
Kate is the PDNA's Communication Committee chair leader.
David August has been a Pearl District resident since 1997. He had a dental practice in York, PA for 30 years until he and his wife retired here. They fell in love with Portland on a 1994 summer vacation to Oregon. Back in Pennsylvania they made an 18 month plan to retire to Portland. They returned to check it out in the January 1996 rains, which didn't faze them. "It was dumb luck that we landed in the Pearl," said August one recent lunchtime. He had been at a conference in Seattle and his son came up from San Francisco to meet him in Portland. From an apartment magazine they picked out the Honeyman Hardware Lofts (NW 9th Ave. and Hoyt, above Caffe Allora). "I liked the feel of the area, it was more industrial. There were autoshops, bearing shops, some art galleries - at night it was pretty quiet." At heart he and his wife were always city people: New York, Boston, Philadelphia. At the time there were only 400 people living in the Pearl (compared to circa 6,000 today.) Lovejoy Street was still a viaduct from 15th Avenue to the Broadway Bridge. They now live in the North Park Lofts at NW Everett and 8th Ave. August spends his time at the gym, playing golf and hanging out with Pearl District friends, as well as with his grown children and grandchildren. When they moved to Portland they knew noone here. "I liked that when you walked through the neighborhood you always met someone you knew. There were limited services, but the interaction among people was very good." We are seated inside Starbucks at NW 11th and Lovejoy. The sidewalks are lined with realtors, dentist and optometrist offices, banks and boutiques. They are busy with families and tourists buzzing to and fro. "My wife and I joke that there's the Pearl, where we live, and then Suburban Pearl, which is everything north of Lovejoy. That's not a value judgment," he says with an "It-is-what-it-is" shrug. The evolution of the Pearl was planned, and he had a front row seat. The Pearl District Neighborhood Association was recognized in 1992. There were around 16 people in it when August got involved, including developers such as Homer Williams, John Carroll and Al Solheim. "We could meet for free in a room on the west side of NW11th between Hoyt and Irving. There was no heat and there was a bulb you turned on with a pull chain. There was a great sense that everyone was willing to pitch in. We all knew the Pearl was going to turn out to be a great place." The three main committees were Livability, Communications and Planning, Transportation and Design Review. August eventually became President of the PDNA. The group accepted that, as blocks were in-filled with ten- and twenty-story buildings, some people would lose their views but it was part and parcel of preserving farmland outside the Urban Growth Boundary. "There was no Streetcar then. We had some good special projects: Wally and Judy Gibson ran the Pearl Party, which was our biggest fundraiser, and Dan Dehen helped with the tree planting program." They persuaded local business owners to pay for the planting of hundreds of new trees, especially from Hoyt to Couch and between 9th and 13th Avenues. "There are still big fights between the 'tree hawks' and property owners who decide to give a tree a haircut without a permit," he said with a laugh. Through the Pearl Development Plan they pushed for affordable housing. "And parks, like Tanner Springs and The Fields. People need green spaces." August considers the Pearl about 70 per cent developed. "The remaining 30 per cent will probably look more like what's around here," he says, looking north to the Fremont Bridge. "There's not much tearing down left. It'll be new building." When he tells friends from out of town about where he and his wife retired to, he tells them, "It exceeded expectations. We picked the right city and the right neighborhood. I'm always glad to come home." Look for an interview with another long-term Pearl resident in next month's newsletter. Joseph Gallivan Edited January 14, 2013 with David August's corrections
Debbie Thomas has run Debbie Thomas Real Estate, a brokerage firm, for 21 years in the Pearl. She walks the walk, as they say: her office is in the Chown Pella building, one of the earliest warehouses to be converted into lofts and offices, and she lives with her two children, husband, dog and cat in the Elizabeth lofts. Thomas has encyclopedic knowledge of every cranny of every block in the Pearl, and can tell you the comings and goings of all businesses, people and trends. "Twenty years ago I looked around and I saw a lot of promise, a lot of beautiful buildings that were evolving," she said recently. "Back then, even before residents started moving in, businesses were relocating away. Places like Swan Island were much better suited for some because of truck access than the Pearl. She saw a lot of warehouses that were underutilized. She remembers places like the Palace Gallery at 12th and Glisan, where bands practiced and there were shuffleboard tables and pool tables on the loading dock. "Now it's the Mckenzie. I just saw the guy who used to run it, Bill Fisher, drive by the other day!" "Thank goodness so many buildings were renovated at a time when they could be seismically upgraded economically and we could reuse them," she says. Even now, buildings like the former-Dyna Graphics building are being renovated to very high standards instead of razed. It's great to keep the character of the neighborhood." In the 1990s it was young single professionals that came to her looking for a place to live. Two thirds were under 40, about a third were couples. "A very small percentage had a child living at home. Now it's much more of a mixture. It's probably still 45 per cent single professionals, and a solid 20 to 30 per cent couples and couples with children." She hails the Pearl's access to services for families. "There are the parks, PlaydatePDX, school options with the Emerson and Childpeace , food markets like Safeway, Whole Foods and Local Choice…I don't need to leave the area." She remembers when Byways on Glisan was Rusty's Café, a classic diner (as in, not fancy, or retro, or chic) and can list eateries like a Zagat. She misses Bima (where Brix Tavern is now) and loves Nuvrei Bakery, Cha Cha Cha and Rogue Brewing. She takes visitors to Cargo and French Quarter Linens. Oh, and her husband started Le Buchon on NW14th. He now reverse commutes to his bistro in Forest Grove. She's optimistic about the Pearl growing. "Companies are finding they have great staff retention in the Pearl, because people like working here with everything on their doorstep: places for lunch and entertainment. I think the bigger companies like Facebook, Google and Microsoft will want to have satellite offices here." Thomas does not think attention from shows like Portlandia, Leverage and MTV Real World will have much effect in terms of making people want to move here. "That's a fun little side thing. It’s the people and the businesses that give the Pearl its character and make it such a great place to live." By Joseph Gallivan