Think the Portland Metro Area's Done For? These 11 Developments Beg to Differ

New apartment complexes, restored theaters, downtown music venues, and more are in the works.

By Julia Silverman February 16, 2022

The Reser Center for the Arts is one of our projects to watch in and around Portland in the coming months.

Image: Joe Cantrell

A spate of new development and infrastructure—some in the works for years and only now coming to fruition, some in the earliest of planning stages—is quietly but insistently unfolding around Portland.

It’s a gentle pushback to the narrative that the city is broken beyond repair after two years of strict pandemic restrictions, social justice uprisings that led to clashes with police, mushrooming houselessness, and rising crime. And it suggests that there are ultimately still those willing to place their bets on Portland bouncing back, even if the payoff doesn’t come for a decade or more.

Yes, there are fewer cranes on the skyline right now, though we'll apparently always have the giant Ritz-Carlton going up at the heart of downtown’s West End. But that could change—here are 11 of the projects, big and small, that we’ll be keeping an eye on in the coming months.

  • Hat tip to the always-on-top of things Iain MacKenzie, a local architect who is the force behind, for calling out this and a number of the other projects that made our list: You know the giant Greek Cusina building at SW 4th and Washington, the one that used to have the giant, iconic purple octopus on top? After years of vacancy, it is under new ownership, who say they plan to open as a dual bar/live music venue, hopefully this spring. (The new ownership warns that “supply chain issues” could derail that timeline, but that’s true of just about everything these days, we guess.)

  • Just in time for bike commuters to start making their way back to their offices this spring (maybe?), the seemingly-endless construction on Southwest Naito Parkway is complete, and the resulting bike lanes are positively Amsterdam-ish in their design. Bikers are now much more shielded and safer from passing drivers, though full beautification in the form of planters and more trees won’t happen until this spring. Now can we do the same thing on an east-west route downtown, please?

  • Three new bright spots to watch on the local arts scene: First off, the Reser Center for the Arts in Beaverton, which is slated for a spring opening with a welcoming urban design and a killer slate of initial programming, including Lea Salonga and the Count Basie Orchestra. Next up, as first reported by Willamette Week, the shuttered Paris Theatre in Old Town has been bought by a Seattle group that runs a dinner cabaret show at Pike Place Market, with plans to restore the grande dame to her former glory. Over in inner Southeast Portland, developer Kevin Cavenaugh is giving a “double scrub” to the Oregon Theatre, a former vaudeville house turned porn palace that is being reimagined as apartments, retail space, and a restored auditorium, which they promise is being cleaned to within an inch of its life. Rank this one as behind schedule (estimated completion was supposed to be 2021) but still very much worth watching.

  • Let’s talk residential construction. There’s a mini-spurt of it, particularly in neighborhoods like the Pearl District, Southwest Waterfront, and Nob Hill. As the Portland Business Journal reports, there’s a proposed new high-rise in the Pearl District that would bring 337 new apartments to the corner of NW Hoyt and 9thAvenue, right at the intersection between the Pearl and Old Town. New lofts have been proposed for NW 23rd and Marshall, though the neighborhood association has objections. A new wood-framed tower with 266 units total is under consideration for the South Waterfront neighborhood, with promising perks including a dog wash, private bicycle parking, and on-call repair staff. Infill, urban density, multifamily—all the buzzwords, really—check, check, and check (well, except affordability).

  • From the "stuff to buy" department, we wrote this week about the giant fork sculpture that will anchor what looks to be a really cool new food cart pod out in Fairview, complete with a children’s play area, a public plaza, and the piece de resistance, a giant fork sculpture anchoring the entrance. Also worth keeping an eye on: MacKenzie’s eagle-eye observation that high-end furniture retailer CB2 is plotting a Pearl District location (there’s just one Crate and Barrel mothership in Oregon thus far, located at Bridgeport Village in Washington County).

  • Okay, fine, this one isn’t new development or infrastructure, unless maybe for tourism purposes. But still, it has to mean something optimistic that the elk statue, missing from its perch downtown lo these many months, is coming back, right? We’ll have to wait until 2023, but at least there’s a date now.
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