As the boundary between Northeast and the “fifth quadrant,” North Portland, Williams Avenue bisects dense neighborhoods with key bus lines and quick access to I-5. Its narrow bike lane has become one of the city’s two-wheeled arterials, serving 4,000 bikes per day at summer’s peak.
So why all the vacant lots and faceless warehouses? Much empty space dates back to a 1970s push to expand Legacy Emanuel that led to more demolition and displacement than actual construction. (Williams’s status as the economic and cultural hub of African American Portland was a casualty of that plan.) But in recent years, the revival (or gentrification) of North/Northeast has seeded a bloom of shops and restaurants along N Williams. Today, northbound drivers and bikers on the corridor steer past rapid change.
Tesoaria Winery Tasting Room (williams & shaver)
Opening this month, this 1,600-square-foot tasting room, in the former home of a box manufacturer, brings the Roseburg-based winery closer to Portland fans.
Payne Apartments (williams& beech)
A five-story, 20-unit mixed-use apartment complex built on the German Passivhaus standard—an ultra-low-energy design concept that boasts energy consumption up to 60 percent less than LEED-certified buildings.
The Radiator (Williams & Fremont)
A proposed high-rise development by the Kaiser Group—the first of a possible three-building project in the long-vacant lots surrounding New Seasons. Plans could be finalized this year.
New Seasons (Williams & Fremont)
The local grocery chain’s latest store brings a number of company firsts: more than 60 bike parking spaces outside (with public lockers inside), an emphasis on raw-food diets, and a tandoor oven.
Blue House Greenhouse Farm (Williams & Cook)
In the midst of construction and infrastructure work, this 1/3-acre plot sprouts vegetables for local restaurants and its own Tuesday-evening farm stand.
The old Cleo-Lillian Social Club (Williams & Monroe)
Once a venerable African American social club, the building stood vacant for years. This summer, Vancouver developer Tim Brown and Skyward Construction renovated the 1911 structure. “There were times when we questioned whether it was worth saving,” says Skyward’s Bryan Ward. “But it turned out quite well.” Five residential units leased in half a day.
The bike lanes
A proposal to expand the Williams bike lane sparked heated controversy in recent years, as some critics equated the cycling surge with gentrification. After extensive public outreach, a $1.5 million traffic overhaul, including additional bike travel space on parts of the street, begins next spring.
This article appeared in the September 2013 issue of Portland Monthly.