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I travelled several times to Portland in all seasons and really liked the city - it really struck me as one of the few American larger cities that has a good quality of life. I found it to be quite beautiful, great to get around in (I bike and also appreciate transit), decent recreation and cultural opportunities, and although the job market is tight, I loved that there were some neighborhoos where I could afford a bungalow. I know for those from NY, San Francisco or even Seattle, Portland seems less sophisticated, less economically vibrant and less diverse, but it certainly rates higher on all of these than the college towns where I have been living.
I've also visited Eugene once and now am considering applying for a job there. I found Eugene nice (farmers market, river trails, decent neighborhoods) if somewhat run-down and not too diverse. Some posters in this forum have complained that they don't like Eugene because it is no longer a "small town," but this is part of the appeal to me. I'm not looking for somewhere stuck in the past, but rather somewhere that seems to balance growing urbanity with a more laid-back lifestyle and outdoor recreation. Now, I don't expect Eugene to be Portland, and I do enjoy the advantages of a small city (rather than small town).
I don't mind hippies (I bike to work, like farmers markets, am open-mined and environmentally conscious, stayed in Whtacre last time a visited and liked it though may not want to live right there) but don't want to be somewhere where hippy attitudes rule local politics and conversation, especially when they are the "small town" variety of hippies who want to prevent all growth and diversity. I also enjoy intelligent conversations and acitvities related to my environmental interests, not new age conversations about acupunture on the earth, etc. and I don't believe developers or market-based economies are "evil" so long as there is *reasonable* regulation. I plan to have a family and want them to have good schools without too many drugs and drop-outs around them. Finally, my wife is asian-american and we like to see a little diversity (understanding this is not a big city). I understand Eugene is a bit bigger (150,000 people) than other college towns and has language immersion elementary schools, which is attractive. Are there many young(ish), more moderate to liberal professionals there? I know Eugene is a bit run-down and the economy is less vibrant than in Colorado, hopefully this will improve a bit.
I have read about the crime and checked out the statistics. Having lived in Boulder and Fort Collins, both of which I consider safe, I saw that the violent crimes (murder & rape) rate is similar (wish it were zero, of course), the assault and property crimes are about twice as common, and the auto theft rate is 4 times what I am used to. So while this may be annoying it seems relatively safe. I was also shocked at the educational attainment in surrounding communities (15% in Springifeld have a college degree? For a town this size in Colorado, even 25% would be considered low. I don't mean to stereotype, I've lived in Appalachia and know there are many nice people, but this was surprising!)
So what do you all think? Any Portland (or other city) transplants who might have some insight? Having visited Eugene, I'd like to hear your impressions.
I lived in Eugene and liked it, but I think you would be miserable there. I don't care what anyone says, but Eugene is still a small town. You'd be happier in Portland. At least you could get to Mt. Hood in maybe 2-3 hrs and the ocean in about 1 or 1.5 hrs? One thing to consider is that the job market in Eugene is not good. Hynix, one of the major employers shut down a few years back. If you lost your job in Eugene, you would almost certainly have to move somewhere else.
I would vote Portland. You seemed to perceive many of the shortcomings of Eugene. A bit dirty and a bit narrow-minded. Not my experience, but the gestalt I have gathered from many friends and posters here. Portland seems more diverse and less dominated by drugs and woo woo granola culture.
I compared a number of cities before moving and finally selected Eugene. But before buying a house in Eugene (after renting for a few months), I made a final trip to Portland to check it out. In the end, I still selected Eugene for the following reasons:
Portland has some serious traffic problems. I-5 and other highways are 4 lanes wide in both directions and oftentimes bumper to bumper traffic. Eugene has very little, if any, traffic.
The Portland houses that I could afford ($300-350K range) were either too rundown or too "cookie cutter-ish" (row after row of similar houses). In Eugene, I eventually found a house for $320K in a very nice area in the SW hills.
Portland is much less tree-covered than Eugene. Some areas were ok, but nothing like Eugene where nearly every area is tree-covered.
Portland retail is more than a little overdone in my view. Too many strip malls, too many malls, too many shopping centers, etc. While it is very convenient, I think it is a negative to the overall visual environment. Eugene has just the right mix of retail for me. (Corvallis, on the other hand, is at the other end of the spectrum...not enough).
I would vote for Eugene too. I am moving back to Oregon later this year (have been living in California) and will be moving to the Portland metro area. My husband's company has a store he can transfer to near Portland, but if it was up to me it would be Eugene because of the GREEN and the bicycles and the slower pace of life.
It's true what you say about the kids not ending up in college though - I grew up in Eugene and never planned to go to college and here were my reasons:
*none of my friends were going to attend.
*nobody can get a job anyway - why spend $100k on a college education when you'll probably end up working at "The Beanery" for the rest of your life?
*my parents were really poor (really poor) as were all my friends parents and everyone else I knew. I knew they wouldn't be able to help me financially and even as it was (living at their home) I had to have a job to buy food and clothes etc. So I (and my friends too ) were looking at the prospect of working 40 hours at a regular job and trying to go to college too while taking out gigantic loans that, in reality would help very little in getting a cashiers job at Fred Meyer anyway.
That was the biggest shock to me in moving to California: While many of the people I met were not as well educated as I was despite not having a college education (says something for Oregon schools BTW) absolutely everyone was attending college. It's unheard of here to not plan to addend a college of any kind.
I am currently enrolled in a career college and plan to further my education when I get to Portland, at least I got something out of living here.
Thanks for the input, all! Seems like views are mixed and I need to figure out which city fits us given the opportunities available. If we lived in Portland, it would have to be somewhere where we can bike and use transit, so the highways may be a non-issue. I suppose Eugene is close to Portland so if we end up in Eugene and don't like it for the long-term, or the job doesn't continue after the first contract, we could always make the move north. As someone with work experience in smaller cities and college towns, I haven't recently seen great opportunities in Portland in my field for my level/type of experience. As I said, I've lived in a town the size of Eugene (Fort Collins) and enjoyed that it had both some urban amenities and quick access to local agriculture, outdoors, etc.
Thanks for the info on attitudes toward college - I agree it does seem like a lot of people in Oregon finish high school and the schools seem good, even if they don't go to college. Too bad with UO right there, there is not more financial support for those going to college, but I guess that's the story of the U.S. these days. In Eugene public schools, would our (future) kids be in a good environment to prepare them for the future, or would there be a lot of pressure to be a slacker/"hippy"/druggie etc.? I am not looking for a rote education or the "best ranked" schools where all the parents are wealthy (that would be too narrow), just looking for somewhere supportive of education, creativity, languages, art, science, etc.
Would love to hear more from people who have lived in Portland and Eugene and how they found life in Eugene. And, is there an indication that Eugene is becoming more urban/diverse and economically vibrant in the future?
Yes Springfield has less college graduates, but it's also more conservative than Eugene. Eugene is about 40%. Consider other places if 40% is too low. Ashland and Boulder are over 50%.
Looking at all the college towns, Eugene is very grungy, and has a cultural attitude of rebelliousness that's just not of interest to many folks. Corvallis, Ashland, Ft. Collins, Boulder are more "typical" bucolic American college towns, if U know what I mean. You either like grungy places like Santa Cruz (CA), Flagstaff (AZ), and Eugene, or you don't.
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In two words, not necessarily. I like Portland a lot for now, and I love Eugene for someday, but I would not say the two are similar enough in culture or outward attitude or appearance or demographics or _____ to say that if you like one that you'll like the other.
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