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Read what the Miami Herald had to say about Portland!

Rave article is from the Sunday, July 21, 2002, issue

From the Miami Herald
Sun, July 21, 2002

Looking for 'Livability?' Oregon's Showcase City Wins - In a Walk


PORTLAND, Ore. - If it weren't for the rain, you might just pack up and move here.

Consider the friendly, snug downtown. Spectacular views. Secret gardens. Mouthwatering restaurants. Offbeat nightspots. Trail Blazers NBA team. The nation's largest independent bookshop, selling a million volumes -- new and used. Comfortable, clean, efficient and cheap public transport -- including a new light-rail train from the airport to downtown (Imagine!).

Don't forget the brew pub-movie theaters, funky neighborhoods, hip hotels, street fairs, designated skateboarding lanes and burgeoning arts scene, including a $45 million art museum expansion. And location, location, location: In an hour or so, you can be hiking or windsurfing in the Columbia River Gorge skiing and climbing on Mt. Hood, sipping pinot noir in the Willamette Valley wine country or lazing on the Oregon Coast.

Oh yeah. In Oregon, there's no sales tax. And in Washington, just 30 miles away, there's no state income tax.

Of the seven burgs in our "second cities" series, Portland is the most
"discovered," with hip boutique hotels, James Beard Award-winning restaurants, public art displays, microbreweries, warehouse lofts-turned-into-megabucks condos and a Saks Fifth Avenue that actually sits on Fifth Avenue. In recent months, magazines including Travel + Leisure, Gourmet, National Geographic Traveler, Money, AmericanStyle, Men's Fitness and Bicycling have sung Portland's praises.

It's not entirely happenstance. Portland's appeal is being carefully
cultivated through a 25-year "livability" plan that stresses the value of neighborhoods, environment and planned growth. While that design is aimed at the 536,000 residents -- 1.5 million in the metro area -- visitors get to enjoy the payoff, too.

"We've been really impressed," said David Coutant, a chemist with Eli
Lilly pharmaceuticals in Indianapolis. He and wife Carrie came here for a wedding but decided to extend the trip into a weeklong vacation after
researching Portland on the Web. "There are a zillion things to do."


Even a few years ago, Portland seemed mostly a way station between Seattle and San Francisco, and driving through on one of the interstates today, you could still mistake Portland for a soul-less industrial zone. But it doesn't take much more than a ride on the Portland Streetcar -- free throughout downtown -- or a walk through the warehouse-turned-pedestrian-and-shopping area called the Pearl District to see that Portland has developed a distinctive charm of its own.

Split by the Willamette River, the city is set on a neat grid, with most of the action on the flat part of the western bank before it heads upward to the West Hills. The nexus is Pioneer Square, a plaza tucked between modern towers and 19th Century architectural graces that is often called Portland's living room.

Though it covers only a small city block, Pioneer Square has clearly defined quarters: one side for the tattoo and body-piercing crowd, a corner for the chess players, and a brick, terraced amphitheater where schoolkids and office workers often take a lunch break. Here you can catch the streetcar, stop in at the visitor center or check out the weatherman statue clutching an open umbrella -- homage to the city's 36.3 annual inches of rain. (City promoters are quick to point out that's less than Atlanta, Birmingham, Houston, Indianapolis or Seattle.)

[SMILE NOTE: Or New York, or MIAMI, we might add!]

Despite the rain -- or perhaps because of it -- this is a walking town, with hotels and shops and museums punctuated by rose gardens (it is called the Rose City, after all), impossibly green parks and -- how could it be otherwise? -- a coffee shop or two on nearly every street corner. A 15-minute stroll takes you from Powell's City of Books, covering an entire city block, down the hill to the Skidmore District, home to the country's second-largest collection of 19th Century cast-iron buildings, after New York's Chelsea. A few minutes more, and you pass the Portland Building -- an
office building designed by architect Michael Graves that gave rise to the
Post-Modern era -- on your way over to the Portland Art Museum.

On any weekend you'll find crowds gathered along the Willamette River, at the Saturday Market crafts fair beneath the Burnside Bridge -- one of eight traversing the Willamette -- or nearby in the newly opened Chinese Classical
Garden, an exquisitely designed nod of appreciation to one of Portland's largest ethnic groups.

Atop the extinct Mt. Tabor [sic], garden enthusiasts throng into the International Rose Test Garden -- four acres covered with 9,000 roses in 590 varieties offering spectacular views over Portland to Mt. Hood -- and wander across the way to the remarkably authentic Japanese Garden or catch the shuttle to the nearby zoo.

"We're a little old, a little new. Some vintage," says Cheryl Atcheson,
speaking of her Pearl District shop, Coco Kimono. But she should be talking about Portland.

The people are invariably polite, the streets spotlessly clean. Part of that livability thing.

Still, Portland is a lodestone of determined individualism -- not to mention the hometown of Simpsons' creator Matt Groening. The Saturday Market -- which also runs on Sundays -- feels like a throwback to the early '70s, a preserve for artisans who must make the candles, tie-dyed fashions and inlaid wooden objects they sell.

Business meetings are as likely held in a coffee shop -- Peet's or Coffee People, not Starbucks -- as a conference room. Commuters can bike to downtown and leave their wheels at one of four Bike Central facilities,
where they can also keep their office and cycling clothes and drop either
off for cleaning. The annual Rose Parade features llamas as well as more traditional parade animals. And, as in other parts of Oregon, physician-assisted suicide is legal here.

It's not for everyone -- at least full-time.

"People here are friendly, but they keep you at arm's length," says Amanda Swisher, who is returning to her home state of Texas after 2½ years in
Portland, in search of a more conventional life. "This is the last frontier. People come here to find out who they are. Anything is accepted here."

That pushing-the-edge nature is, of course, a matter of history. Lewis and Clark claimed this territory for the United States nearly 200 years ago, and in 1849, some 65,000 Americans streamed west, braving mountains and Indians and loneliness of the Oregon Trail in search of prosperity.

That they came to a place called Portland was really no more than the luck of a coin toss. Two early claimants, Asa Lovejoy and Francis W. Pettygrove, debated whether to name their fledgling township Boston -- Lovejoy's hometown -- or Portland, after Pettygrove's hometown of Portland, Maine.

Pettygrove won.

Set in rich timberlands near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers, Portland became a transportation hub for shippers and gold-rushers, a play zone for sailors and lumberers. Brothels thrived; the Erickson Saloon -- now Banana Joe's Island Party -- claimed the west's longest bar, measuring 684 feet and tended by 50 barmen. Commercial palaces were crafted in cast iron in defiance of the fires and floods that had plagued the city.

Built without alleys, this commercial district was serviced by underground tunnels high enough for a horse. The tunnels also served as a hiding place for able-bodied seamen who'd been ''shanghaied'' by Joseph ''Bunco'' Kelly, a hotelier who intoxicated potential crew members and sold them to ship captains, often headed for Shanghai.


Tourism, high-tech industry and manufacturing have replaced shipping as the economic base, but reminders of the past remain: a memorial to the 7,000 Japanese shipped to internment camps during World War II, a formal Chinatown gate, Art Deco facades, Victorian homes, an Irish bar, oyster houses. Cultural activities celebrate the heritage of the area's first people and those who have come after, including Mexicans and African-Americans.

And, of course, the Columbia River Gorge, the 80-mile canyon through the Cascade Mountains that formed the last leg of the Oregon Trail.

Today the gorge is still used for transportation, though people and cargo now zip through it on Interstate 84 rather than on the river itself. But the main reason to come here is the natural beauty.

Take the back roads -- collectively called the Historic Columbia River Highway -- and you'll ride over 100-year-old bridges crossing rich trout streams, past serene waterfalls, through tunnels of maple and oak, over hills offering spectacular views down the basalt chasm cut by water and wind. Hiking, windsurfing and fishing rank as favored pastimes -- the inspiration for the Columbia Sportswear Co., founded in 1938 and now one of the country's best-known outdoor sportwear makers.

Like the Gorge, Portland's beauty is in the mix of rough and sweet, historic and modern, unique and universal. Good reasons to visit any city.

(c)2002, The Miami Herald

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Posted by smile333 on 07/24/2002
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