This was once an area of warehousing and industrial yards called "Northwest Industrial Triangle,'' but the Pearl District has blossomed into an upscale neighborhood of residences, businesses, and notable art galleries. Now it is recognized internationally and is an award-winning leader in urban renewal. It is located close to downtown Portland and right next to the Willamette river, making it a lovely area in close proximity to many important Portland locations. It is home to Portland icons such as Powell's Books, the former Weinhard Brewery, and is houses two public and highly innovative plazas.
Part of the warehouse area was demolished in the 1990's, which allowed development opportunities for dozens of city blocks. Development boomed, encouraging pubs, restaurants, shops, and art galleries to scramble for a place in the new, ritzy area. It now stands as a testament of how new life can sprout for urban decay.
Visible changes were actually few. According to urban legend, the name "Pearl District'' was coined by a local gallery owner named Thomas Augustine, who said the warehouse buildings in the district were like oysters, crusty and drab, while the galleries, shops, and boutiques were like the pearls within the shells. However, the name could have come from an oyster canning factory that was in the area, and some say the name came from the fact that Chinese seafarers once hid pearls under the cobble stones in Twelfth Street. Regardless of the origin, the name quickly stuck.
Today, the Pearl District is an enticing attraction for Portlanders and tourists alike. The restored buildings offer a historic perspective. The dining establishments there are considered to be some of the best in the city. There's a wide assortment of music, theater, and art activities to make the area culturally rich. The stores offer trendy and chic fashion, unique items, and more. Salons, spas, and beauty and health services are offered all around the district. To make the place even more pleasant, soothing urban parks are provided for visitors and inhabitants. Even free wireless internet is available throughout the area.
Many have referred to the Pearl District as the "gold standard'' for a mix-use space of living, working, and playing opportunities. Residents rarely own cars, since every needed service is close enough to walk, ride a bike, or take a bus to. The district has a tight community of friendly residents, many of which left single family homes in order to take part in the unity of the inhabitants. Part of what makes the people so harmonious with each other is the well-known fact that they all share an appreciation for the artistic, trendy, rich culture of the upscale Pearl District.
And to think that such a chic city within a city grew from the crumbling remains of an industrial district.