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tomika!

Is Portland cool?

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Portland gets so much press for it's beautiful downtown, advanced system of public transportation, and numerous parks. But, is it a cool city? Is it a REAL city or does it feel like a college town? What's the art scene like...and the music scene? Is it diverse?

I've thought about moving there and opening my business, but wanted to get feedback first.

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Well... I think it's a cool city. But I'm not really that cool. Diverse? Lot of white people & also some Asian-American, Black, & Latinos - but mostly lumberjacks & latte drinkers.

Portland feels like a very large small town - which I like, plenty of trees in downtown & few annoying skyscrapers. Not as active of a downtown as most would assume, the city is much more neighborhood oriented - but nothing to complain about.

As for music, I know Heatmiser (Elliot Smith) & Sunny Day Real Estate were from there. Probably some other Northwest type music was from there too.

If Elliot Smith was still alive, he would probably tell you people are a bit depressed there...

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I would say Portland is cool. Their business leaders are always chasing Seattle, kinda like the Charlotte/Atlanta thing.

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Well... I think it's a cool city. But I'm not really that cool. Diverse? Lot of white people & also some Asian-American, Black, & Latinos - but mostly lumberjacks & latte drinkers.

Portland feels like a very large small town - which I like, plenty of trees in downtown & few annoying skyscrapers. Not as active of a downtown as most would assume, the city is much more neighborhood oriented - but nothing to complain about.

As for music, I know Heatmiser (Elliot Smith) & Sunny Day Real Estate were from there. Probably some other Northwest type music was from there too.

If Elliot Smith was still alive, he would probably tell you people are a bit depressed there...

I'm in my third year of living in Portland and eighth year in Oregon and I can honestly say that Portland is both very cool and yet overrated at the same time. Yeah Portland isn't that diverse, but most of Western United States isn't that diverse outside of California and the largest cities(The Southwest is primarily Hispanic, I don't if that counts as diverse). There are several areas in the further reaches of Portland and in the suburbs, that while not very scenic, have growing numbers of Asian and Hispanic immigrants.

Just for the record, the lumber industry in Oregon has been on the downside for years and you'd be hardpressed to find very many actual lumberjacks in Portland. Perhaps in a few of the more rural suburbs in Clackamas County or out towards Mount Hood you might find people living off the land, but not in Portland. In central Portland you're more likely to find Volvo driving upper-middle class liberals, shaggy haired black clad hipsters, dishelved drugged out homeless people, and so on... Portland seems to attracted a large number of recent arrivals from the Midwest and East Coast... So much so that, I've been at parties where I'll be one of the only people in attendence to have grown up on the West Coast, let alone Oregon. Most people in Portland are geninually nice, friendly folks, although the self-righteousness of some of the more extreme liberals here can get annoying along with how trendy much of the city has become.

I've grown tired of East Coasters (and don't get me wrong I love the East Coast cities) complaining that while Portland is nice, it isn't a real city like New York or Boston. If you study the history of Portland you'll see that it's always been a fairly provincial city. Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles are the West Coast's more international cities. Portland has always tried to preserve itself as pleasent place to live. The job market is awful here, because so many people are willing to sacrifice making big money somewhere else to enjoy all the amneties of Portland.

So if you enjoy glacier-clad mountains, salmon filled rivers, and mossy forests in close proximity and want to live somewhere with some of the attractions of a larger city, Portland is pretty cool. Just don't expect New York, LA or Chicago..

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^ Your comments are duly noted, but please be aware I was taking liberty with the idea of lumberjacks living in the city, of course I was kidding. My point was merely to note - as the majority of all major cities - there are two distinct classes of society, the largely native born working class (lumberjacks) & the largely affluent non-native professional (latte drinkers).

Yes - it is a broad & mostly innacurate representation of the people. But I enjoy making generalizations :)

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I think Portland is a cool city.

I agree with teshadoh in saying that to me, Portland feels like a very large small town.

I was there a few years ago, and I really liked the city.

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Portland is an interesting place, but it will always be Seattle's kid brother. If you are looking for a more laid back attitude then Portland is for you. Seattle is much more of a big city. Both areas are very scenic though, but heavily Democratic. If I had to choose between the two, I would live in Seattle. Neither one was really diverse the last time I visited (in 99). For example, I probably saw one black person the entire time I was in the Pacific NW. I think it is probably the whitest part of America.

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I always thought the lesbian-lumberjacks-from-Eugene float in Portland's gay parade was cool. :lol:

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Well... I think it's a cool city. But I'm not really that cool. Diverse? Lot of white people & also some Asian-American, Black, & Latinos - but mostly lumberjacks & latte drinkers.

Portland feels like a very large small town - which I like, plenty of trees in downtown & few annoying skyscrapers. Not as active of a downtown as most would assume, the city is much more neighborhood oriented - but nothing to complain about.

Funny, aside from the lumberjacks it sounds very much like you're talking about Pittsburgh. Not to derail the topic, but I wonder how two similar cities can have such differing reputations. It goes along with my belief that "cool" is all a matter of perception.

I think "cool" goes in cycles. A city is what people make it. Every city has its good point and its bad points, but certain places become trendy for a while. Portland seems to be trendy right now. So in that respect I guess you'd say it's cool. But I think people should consider that any place can have something to offer them. I wish more people would choose where to live based on personal preference instead of what is considered "cool."

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Gerbil - I love relative based arguements, I completely agree. I might not consider a city like Charlotte to be cool, but based on the general perception of Atlanta - I wouldn't consider Atlanta cool. Most cities can be considered cool based on what your concept of what cool is, for many - it can be simply 'grit', whereas others it would be new shopping centers.

I would say cities such as Portland or Pittsburgh, who have developed unique characteristics may have a larger variety of 'coolness' than a Charlotte, but again - the primary point is that the coolness factor is relative.

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Gerbil - I love relative based arguements, I completely agree. I might not consider a city like Charlotte to be cool, but based on the general perception of Atlanta - I wouldn't consider Atlanta cool. Most cities can be considered cool based on what your concept of what cool is, for many - it can be simply 'grit', whereas others it would be new shopping centers.

I would say cities such as Portland or Pittsburgh, who have developed unique characteristics may have a larger variety of 'coolness' than a Charlotte, but again - the primary point is that the coolness factor is relative.

I agree totally. I know places like Seattle and Portland are wonderful cities, and I'm not putting them down, but for me, cool is something that a city can't strive for. It has to be something just in the city's bones and something that isn't dependent on a particular generation--yuppies, gen x-er's, etc. Most of all cool to me isn't about trendiness or posing or anything that's manufactured.

Although I've been to Portland, I'm not particularly familiar with it. Perhaps it's just a stereotype, but I imagine Portland as a city with a little bit of a yuppie type of coolness. I could be wrong of course.

My favorite cities are New Orleans, Memphis, St. Louis, and Chicago. I'll even confess to the "crime"--on these boards anyway--of not particularly caring for the culture of San Francisco, although it's a nice place.

The greatest thing about New Orleans is that it is a city immune to trends. It just has such a strong local culture that beats back any attempt to drag the place in a different direction.

Memphis--this is what the NYTimes said about it in its travel section:

"Memphis is so far from the corporate, power-mad music scene of L.A. and New York, and as real as it gets without crumbling under the weight of its own joyfully raunchy history. No wonder Dylan loves it here, no wonder Matchbox 20 had a blast in the studios."

That's cool!

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Well, I live in what I consider a "real" city (Providence, RI) and have lived in New Haven, CT and Manhattan as well and I just came back from a vacation in Portland and Seattle, and I'll say with 100% confidence that not only is Portland very much a "real" city, it might be my favorite in the US. And yes, it's extremely cool in real and authentic ways. It by no means feels like a college town at all (like, say, New Haven, CT; Burlington, VT, or Ann Arbor, MI).

It feels very Canadian actually, in good ways. More like Vancouver or Toronto or Edmonton than, for example, Seattle. It's dense, friendly, clean, and extremely walkable.

I don't think it's fair to compare it to Seattle at all, which is a much larger megapolis on the scale of something like Chicago, Minneapolis, or Boston. They have competely different feels, geography, and demographics.

- Garris

PS: If you're looking for Portland photos, I recently posted a series of my Portland shots (with more to come) in the "Photos" section of UP and I'll eventually update my webpage below with them and my Seattle shots as well.

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Well, I live in what I consider a "real" city (Providence, RI) and have lived in New Haven, CT and Manhattan as well and I just came back from a vacation in Portland and Seattle, and I'll say with 100% confidence that not only is Portland very much a "real" city, it might be my favorite in the US. And yes, it's extremely cool in real and authentic ways. It by no means feels like a college town at all (like, say, New Haven, CT; Burlington, VT, or Ann Arbor, MI).

It feels very Canadian actually, in good ways. More like Vancouver or Toronto or Edmonton than, for example, Seattle. It's dense, friendly, clean, and extremely walkable.

I don't think it's fair to compare it to Seattle at all, which is a much larger megapolis on the scale of something like Chicago, Minneapolis, or Boston. They have competely different feels, geography, and demographics.

- Garris

PS: If you're looking for Portland photos, I recently posted a series of my Portland shots (with more to come) in the "Photos" section of UP and I'll eventually update my webpage below with them and my Seattle shots as well.

That's good to know about Portland. I haven't been there but once and that was in 1971.

I've been to Providence--more times than to Portland--and do know that it's certainly a "real" city, so I will honor your "providential" judgment on Portland.

Regarding Minneapolis--I live 1 1/2 hrs. away, and go there often. I've never found most of the city to be particularly "cool" in the sense of being trendy or yuppified. I do however find it to be cool in the sense of being quirky and having a unique identity--a combination of people 1 or 2 generations removed from the farms with their "heartland values" (hate that term) together with a sense of tolerance and social activism. How can I say this? Every dysfunctional ne'er do well in the upper Midwest ends up in Minny--lol--and ends up combining with the stolidly middle-class Norwegian, Swede, and German culture to create something a little unique.

Sort of a San Francisco of the Corn Belt.

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It does seem theat cities go in cycles. In the late 70's- 80's Minneapolis was cool and so was Dallas. In the 90's it was all about Seattle and Atlanta. And, Recently, you hear a lot about Portland and Chicago.

I travel quite a lot and was very excited to visit Portland -- I kept hearing so much about it. To be honest I was kind of dissapointed -- it is a fine city, but I was expecting something more. I was expecting a more eco-friendly, urban Minneapolis. Sure it has good transportation, but it was a lot smaller than i thought it was going to be and a lot older. It actually reminded me a bit of a small San Francisco or a big Duluth.

I contrast it to my recent visit to Denver. I was very impressed with Denver --it has really gown -- in a good way. The 16th Street Mall and Warehouse area was great as was the free suttle bus!!! I think Denver may be the next "hot" city.

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MrSmith - actually Denver & Portland may be my most preferred cities for relocation. What I like about both of those cities, is they maintain a generally 'friendly' small town vibe in their downtowns. Their is a uniqueness, a sense of place that exists - whereas the majority of most southeastern sunbelt cities have some generic manufactured image - in particular the 'new downtowns' that have replaced the historic smaller downtowns of the early 1900's (fortunately Atlanta's downtown still has some remnants of it's historic downtown - but not much).

Sleepy - you went on a bit of a tangent, but I appreciate your comments. I admit I do prefer the 'techie' coolness factor, in combination with some 'college-town' coolness & then of course - what I prefer & what you appear to prefer the more bohemian sub-culture that typically exists in the somewhat run down neighborhoods surrounding downtown. I think Portland epitomizes all of those 'cool' factors I listed.

Of course I wanted to make clear I like Sleepy's tangents ;)

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Maybe it was just my experience, but Denver's downtown seemed very quiet and uneventful. There are some great new developments, but I couldn't find any interesting shopping and my experience on the 16th Street Mall is that's it's just plain ugly. I know many people that love the city, but I was unimpressed.

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Maybe it was just my experience, but Denver's downtown seemed very quiet and uneventful. There are some great new developments, but I couldn't find any interesting shopping and my experience on the 16th Street Mall is that's it's just plain ugly. I know many people that love the city, but I was unimpressed.

Oh yeah...the mall is ugly!! The planters and the lighting...looks like Jelly fish on a stick.

I guess it depends on where you are coming from. It certainly isn't Chicago or New York --but if i were considering a move Denver would be high on my list. It has a pretty compact downtown -- although, I actually would want to live in the Cherry creek area. Plus, housing is cheaper than Minneapolis and the weather is warmer.

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I agree totally. I know places like Seattle and Portland are wonderful cities, and I'm not putting them down, but for me, cool is something that a city can't strive for. It has to be something just in the city's bones and something that isn't dependent on a particular generation--yuppies, gen x-er's, etc. Most of all cool to me isn't about trendiness or posing or anything that's manufactured.

That's Seattle & Portland, they set trends, the nation follows them. From music to microbrews to Microsoft to coffee to Nike, etc. There is a unique creative, entrepreneurial free spirit out west.

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I live in Portland and love it. If you like cities and density, you will like Portland, that said however, walking around Portland you will find that it has a unique feel and is not really anything like the dense cities of the US. I guess I'd say it like a dense city scaled down quite a bit (especially since we have tiny blocks: 200ft x 200ft, typically one modern day building per block)... theres still the skyscrapers, transit and urban life but it feels much more managable and as said above like a large small city.

The city has lots of parks too.

One of the coolest things about Portland is that it preaches "livability", smart growth, transit oriented development, density, regional planning and green construction. In fact Portland started building a brand new high rise neighborhood about a year and a half ago on some vacant land along the Willamette River about a mile south of downtown. There are already 3 towers that have risen with another one in excavation and several more about to start construction. These buildings are all around 25-35 stories. The streetcar connection to downtown has already been built but hasnt opened yet, the aerial tram is under construction which will connect the neighborhood to a hilltop hospital complex.

here's a photo of the new neighborhood known as the South Waterfront...

swf.jpg

Should hopefully be this around 2012:

184_kohler_page05_001.sized.jpg

Heres a few minute animated rendering of the neighborhood: South Waterfront Animated

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I travel quite a lot and was very excited to visit Portland -- I kept hearing so much about it. To be honest I was kind of dissapointed -- it is a fine city, but I was expecting something more. I was expecting a more eco-friendly, urban Minneapolis. Sure it has good transportation, but it was a lot smaller than i thought it was going to be and a lot older.

Portland is more neighborhood oriented and most of the growth in the Portland area isn't occuring in core area. Vancouver, Washington County, & Clackamas County lead the charge in growth. Companies rather sprawl out in the suburbs than locate in Multnomah County these days. Kruse Way in Lake Oswego is the new commercial development hotspot. Portland is cool but in needs to become more liberal (the real definition of liberal), especially towards business & development.

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I live in Portland and love it. If you like cities and density, you will like Portland,

Density? Portland isn't that dense & most of the major commercial projects are being built in the suburbs.

One of the coolest things about Portland is that it preaches "livability", smart growth, transit oriented development, density, regional planning and green construction.

Yet those policies are making sprawl worse & convincing people & business to locate in the suburbs. Portland is a great city but the smart growth b.s. is just that, b.s. Portland needs to real analyize itself & rectify some major problems.

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I agree that Portland overall isnt that dense but I'm saying that the city center is quite dense and has the appearance of density... there arent a lot of vacant lots or parking lots. The Pearl District, Nob Hill, Central Eastside and Downtown are dense and urban. The South Waterfront will be very dense. The suburbs are a whole different story.

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