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Thursday, October 13, 2005
Portland is the new NYC
Last week's cover story in Willamette Week hit close to home. Since I graduated from college and moved back to Portland in 2001, I've wondered who exactly is buying up the city's bumper crop of townhouse and condos. Especially in a local economy where people with masters degrees wind up pouring coffee for a living and the unemployment rate is among the nation's highest.
The Oregonian has run numerous articles over the past few months on Portland's housing market but nothing (I've seen) on the whys, hows and, most importantly, the whos of the city's "new economy." The WW story claims that an exodus of empty-nesters and white collar professionals from around the country are fueling Portland's metamorphosis and many of the later don't even work here. They either telecommute or bounce around the west coast on Horizon shuttles.
To make matters worse, Portland is experiencing a hipster gold rush and AP articles like this can't be helping matters. Thanks, Colin Meloy. You and your indie rock pals are helping to attract more liberal arts majors that won't be able to find work around here.
If you're a recent college graduate, don't even bother moving to Portland. Sure, the mountain is very pretty, the ocean is an hour away and there's a great music scene but it's not like you'll be able to enjoy any of it on $7.50 an hour, especially when you're paying $600+ for a studio destined to be converted into a condo. Still considering it? Have a look at these horror stories.
It seems like Portland is becoming a west coast New York or a San Francisco North, where only those making six-figure incomes can afford to live anywhere near the city and the rest of us schmucks commute in from the distant suburbs. Is this what Portland is becoming? Nice, comfortable, laid back, quirky and once affordable Portland? Ye Ole Stuptown- the place where everybody wears jeans everywhere?
I only have one thing to say to those investing millions in lofts in the Pearl District: if you love vibrant night life and world-class restaurants, why not stick with the best and stay in NYC? If you can afford to live in the Big Apple and enjoy what the Big Apple offers, stay in the Big Apple.
I'm a wage slave with only a liberal arts degree and one day I'll have to face up to the facts- that I, a fourth-generation Portlander can no longer afford to live in my beloved hometown. That day may a few months down the road or a few years but it's definitely on the way. I love this city or at least I loved what this city used to be but with each passing day it seems like more and more of that Portland disappears. The next iconic bit of Portlandia on the chopping block may be Saturday Market. And why? To make way for more condos, art galleries, etc.
Portland and all it once stood for isn't dead but it's definitely on life support.