The Pearl Condos Team
May 27, 2019
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About the Pearl

According to the Pearl District Business Association, Thomas Augustine, a local gallery owner, coined the name Pearl District more than 10 years ago to suggest that its industrial buildings were like crusty oysters, and that the galleries and artists' lofts within were like pearls.

This area includes most of the historic North Park Blocks. These blocks were some of the original park properties in the city. Captain John Couch dedicated the blocks to the City in 1869. City plats show the park blocks continuing to Front Street, but Tanner Creek and poor drainage were obstacles to development and land north of Glisan remained vacant. The original design concept for the North Park Blocks was for a continuation of the South Park Blocks promenade. However, the linking was impeded early on by Benjamin Stark's reluctance to give the city the two blocks between Ankeny and Stark. On the remaining blocks, trees were planted in rows like those in the South Park Blocks, using Big leaf maples and Black locusts with American elms at the street edge. In 1864, the Weinhard Brewery opened, but by the 1880s, the area was still predominantly residential, not fashionable like the South Park Blocks. Modest one- and two-story houses were built and served as the primary residential opportunities of the time.

Around the turn of the century, after the railroads were constructed through to Portland, the district started being redeveloped with residential hotels, large warehouses and light industrial businesses. For example, large stores like Meier and Frank constructed large warehouses in the area to store and distribute their merchandise. The railroad eventually purchased the land north of Park to Front and expanded its rail yards making reference to the designation -- "Northwest Industrial Triangle".

In 1908, the People's Institute operated a playground and welfare program in the North Park Blocks. The next year the Park Commission added play equipment and soon took jurisdiction. This became Portland's first supervised playground and quickly became popular citywide. In 1920, tennis courts were built in the northernmost block and play areas were developed between Everett and Glisan. Also built around this time were two brick restrooms in the Ankeny block. As more playgrounds were developed in other parks, and commercial and industrial uses pushed out residential use, demand for the park began to decline. Many large trees were damaged in the 1962 Columbus Day storm and were removed, changing the character of the park and giving the city reason to consider other uses for the land.

Just two years later the United States Post Office main processing facility for all of Oregon and SW Washington was built next to Union Station. This location was chosen in order for the post office to be able to better serve towns outside the Portland metro area. Decades later in the 1990s, an elevated portion of NW Lovejoy Street from the Broadway Bridge past NW 10th Avenue was demolished, opening dozens of surrounding blocks (including some brownfield sites) for development. As demand for condominiums grew in Portland and the Cityís reputation grew as having one of, if not the best urban planning program in the nation, investors and developers began seeing the old warehouses in todayís Pearl District as huge opportunities for close-in condominium housing. In 1999, the Weinhard Brewery (which had been one of those buildings and which operated continuously there since 1864) was shut down by Strohs upon the purchase of the Weinhard's brand by Miller Brewing and sold for redevelopment as todayís Brewery Blocks. Demand for condominiums continued at alarming rate, far outpacing availability late into the 90ís through 2007. More development of new buildings and renovation of now historical buildings in the Pearl accelerated with this demand as 100ís of new condominiums hit the market year over year. With the condominium development came national retail chains, including Whole Foods, Adidas, Anthropology, Sur La Table, P.F. Changs, Patagonia, Safeway, Design Within Reach and numerous others. Today the Pearl District is considered one of Portlandís most popular shopping districts, host to a thriving Gallery and Performing Arts scene, 3 major Breweries, one of Portland best culinary scenes and dozens of boutique retailers seemingly on every corner. By 2008 36 buildings in the Pearl were owner occupied residences with at least half a dozen under construction to become leased office spaces and apartments.

Thanks goes to a good friend at the Oregon Historical Society for input on this historical synopsis.

*Thanks goes to a good friend at the Oregon Historical Society for input on this historical synopsis.
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