Portland Is At A Crossroads On Its Way To Becoming A True Metropolis

Dated: November 21 2016

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Starting in the 1980s, Portland became a sort of northwestern refuge, attracting migrants from cities that were increasingly unlivable. That unlivability stemmed from several factors, including poorly planned density, high costs, decrepit urban infrastructure and city institutions unable to fix anything, from potholes to schools. In those days, Portland was the antithesis to all that. The city’s identity developed from a timber, farming and salmon-fishing town into a modern Arcadia, with an attractive combination of human-centered planning, access to nature and a low-overhead economy that nurtured individual creative ambition into long-term success.

From the heart of downtown, you saw forests and mountain peaks. The citizens had rallied to tear out a freeway and create a waterfront park. A middle class salary bought you a family home. The young and the restless came to forge their future in a land of optimism and possibility. As a Portland native, I watched the whole process with pride.

Jean-Pierre Veillet is a native Oregonian and founder of Siteworks Design | Build.

Jean-Pierre Veillet is a native Oregonian and founder of Siteworks Design | Build.


Portland today is at a different crossroads. Make no mistake, our current growth phase isn’t ending soon; it’s part of a worldwide urbanization trend, made more acute by the city’s desirability as a place to live and work. In its transition to large metro status, Portland is suffering a variety of growing pains, including the housing crisis facing us today.

We’ve officially departed the Arcadian era of Tom McCall, and are evolving into . . .well, it’s up to us. Portland’s utopian identity could easily be dismantled by the choices we make as developers. On the other hand, this crossroads is an opportunity to grow Portland into a true metropolis while retaining what made it great in the first place.

Cities become great for reasons that are both economic and cultural, and economy and culture depend on people. We can’t have a great city without addressing the “missing middle” population that brings our lofty ideas of urban culture into being.

To center and preserve Portland’s identity as we grow into a city of 2 million or more, there is nothing more important than providing homes for people earning a $40,000-60,000 annual salary: the teachers, students, artists, chefs and myriad small business makers and service providers that keep Portland creative and livable. This kind of housing will provide a stable, bankable pathway between old Portland and new.

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Mark Ross

For Mark Ross, founder of Ross NW Real Estate and professional real estate broker, real estate has always been the career of choice. During his 25+ years in the industry, Mark has gained experience in....

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