Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Rumble on Division Street

I've dropped in on Portland intermittently for the last 25 years or so now, mostly in the southeast below Hawthorne.  It's a neighborhood I've heard called "hippy hollow" although the name is probably at best an easy flippancy, never a really good description.  Grant that the strip along Hawthorne from 39th down to (say) 35th persists as more or less the picture of what you expect Portland to be--and as it happens, still thriving, yet not all that different from  what it looked like when I first saw it.

So, a scruffy sort of charm, with street kids and buskers and dogs. The checkout line at the Powell bookshop is much shorter than it used to be, although I suspect this has more to do with the book trade in general than with Hawthorne in particular.   Bread and Ink Cafe is offering a special on a chicken waffle, which I suspect is new. But mostly pretty much the same.

But the side streets below Hawthorne--they've always looked to me less like counterculture and more like a neighborhood of homeowners: lovely homes mostly, lovingly if not lavishly maintained.  You don't see McMansions here, nor monster trucks.  Here's a bumper sticker that says "government off my cupcakes."  Here's another--on a somewhat shopworn Honda, it says "preferia estar matando zombies."  Here's a small panel truck with a folding ladder and a piece of PCV pipe.  Here's a boxed front-yard garden with a thriving splash of red chard.   I suspect we are dealing here not with internet superstars so much as high school guidance counselors, artisan brewers and suchlike--people with more time than money and some knack for the good life.

All this has remained remarkably unchanged in general temper for a long time.  But what's interesting is what seems to be happening down on Division--Hawthorne's evil twin, parallel and half a mile south and with notable exceptions, for a long time a pretty grim place.  It has been the home, inter alia, of one of the most forlorn porn theatres I've seen anywhere--looks a lot like the Elks Club down at Gridley, CA with, I speculate, very much the same clientele.

But here's the news:  Division today is a construction zone.  The street is a mess; there are new projects in process on both sides and in at least one place there's a lot where it looks like the construction company bought the lot and tore down the building so there would be storage space for other projects.

What kind of construction: well, I tried to keep my eyes on the road but I saw at least two, maybe three or four items with the same MO: tear down the old stuff, replace with "retail" (= mostly bars and restaurants); top it with one, maybe two, maybe three stories of apartments/condos.

As to the restaurants and bars--looks (and sounds) to me like they are thriving: they're packed at diner hour, and by 1030 at night, they are overflowing.  Mostly a young crowd, I assume and by all appearances they have the time and the money and the disposition to a good time.

As to the living units: I must say, I think it would be noisy up there, but they probably aren't for me anyway.  My sources say they probably run about 200k 250k, with rents perhaps 18k a month (the people I talk to are a bit vague on how many bedrooms, etc.). 

And here's the thing: for the people in the side streets  between Hawthorne and division, I suspect these numbers sound mostly astronomic, out of reach.  Grant that a lot of those "interior" homes could go for 350k or more; still, I'm betting that a lot of the owners are people who bought in at 50-100k, and have a tough time getting their minds round the fact that the market has changed.

So exactly who are all those youngsters giggling in the bars?  Hard to say.  I've made my point that I don't think they are the people from the neighborhood.  Portland has lots of prosperous kiddies in the IT game but I had thought they mostly lived elsewhere.  Whatever.  I do read that unemployment in Portland persists at about 7.3 percent, just about the national average.  And I heard a couple of new stories this weekend about (supposedly) high-skilled guys in their 50s-60s getting bounced with no options.  And did I mention that Oregon as a whole (albeit not Portland) has the worst high school graduation rate in the nation for white students (overall, it is only a paltry fourth)?  Complicated world.

1 comment:

Lise said...

Oct 15 Spacious 1 Bdrm w/a Large Balcony - Ask About a Free iPad Mini! $1445 / 1br - 624ft² - (SE Division/Richmond).

From Craigslist; this is one of the apartments above the new retail on Division.