" . . . the city's inner east side is Portland's dead zone, the riverbank where dumpsters go to die.
The warehouses slump like aging whores, flashing a little loading dock, insisting they're available, proud that they're cheap." n
Steve Duin, Oregonian columnist
While a new city was built on the west side of the Willamette, the east side was first developed as farmland. Less favorable for use as a port because of its shallower waters, the waterfront here evolved into a district of warehouses and wholesale marketplaces. Historian Carl Abbott likens East Portland and Albina to "Jersey City and Hoboken, secondary industrial centers built around docks, sawmills, flour mills, and railroad yards." Further east, while independent plats and spotty development patterns sometimes resulted in streets that didn't even line up with each other, growth came quickly with the arrival of a controversial millionaire.
Kentucky-native Ben Holladay (1826-1887) created the nation's largest stagecoach business. Selling the business to Wells Fargo (and giving them a great symbol for subsequent advertising campaigns), Holladay moved to Portland with big plans. Described as "rampaging, rapacious, ruthless" by an alliterative opponent, Holladay was eager to transform East Portland. He constructed the first rail line on the east side, helping to spur the growth of mills, lumberyards, and warehouses. The Holladay Addition (the site of modern-day Lloyd Center) was his attempt to relocate Portland's business center to the east side. In fact, Holladay accurately predicted that grass would one day be growing along the Willamette's west side, although the grass grows not from disuse, but rather in Waterfront Park. But Holladay's would-be empire crumbled beneath poor management.
East Portland was consolidated with the city of Portland in 1891, and it became the city's wholesale distribution center. Marshes and gullies were filled in and industrial spaces were built up in alignment with a Portland's mayor's campaign promise to make factory smokestacks "as numerous as trees in the forest" on the east side. (As a result, this is one of the areas in the city with the least green space.)
When it was labeled an urban renewal district in the late 1980s, the city chose to invest huge funds in the Central Eastside. Much of the money went to the Eastbank Esplanade, but in 2006, over $50 million was scheduled for improvements that include a streetcar loop. The new Central Eastside has fewer manufacturing and industrial firms, and more nontraditional, low-impact startup businesses. In conjunction with its restored buildings (sometimes occupied by artists fleeing the horrors of the Pearl), one can see the area is turning into something it's never been - a vibrant neighborhood.
Further east, one journeys to the terrors of 82nd Avenue, where the urban growth boundary has failed to insure that actual neighborhoods would evolve. Instead, one finds unwalkable corridors of chain franchises and car dealerships.Less Text