Blogging The New York Times: On Green, Race, and Gentrification in Portland

Blogging The New York Times: On Green, Race, and Gentrification in Portland

Jonathan B.
Jun 3, 2008

We lived in Portland, Oregon for three years, and can say first hand that it really is the epicenter of green. If there can be an epicenter in an epicenter, then it's the ReBuilding Center, a non-profit that anchors Alberta, one of the city's most quickly changing neighborhoods. The sudden influx of white folks interested in green has set off some painful introspection in this usually progressive city, and it's lead us to wonder if all this green is really just another shade of white.

Here's a quick history lesson: a quasi-public company, the Portland Development Commission, targeted the area around the Alberta neighborhood's Mississippi Street for redevelopment and offered subsidized business loans, grants, and mortgages that fueled a rise in property values. As William Yardley points out, Portland is only 7% black, and the change in the neighborhood is quite visible. Mostly white hipsters fill coffee shops and restaurants and slick new stores such as Pistils Nursery sell plants in an aestheticized setting. The neighborhood is a quick bike ride or bus trip from downtown, and at least one developer is building green loft condos designed to appeal to the neighborhood's new residents.

The question of whether or not this is progress seems to depend on where you are from—and whether or not you have found a way to profit from the sudden changes in the neighborhood.

Gentrification has always been a fact of life in American cities, but the new push for green does offer a shiny distraction from ugly realities (such as the fact that blacks were constitutionally prohibited from owning property in Oregon until the early 20th century). We're wondering if there might be a more inclusive definition of green that takes into account issues of social class and race.

Check out the full article at The New York Times.

image via The New York Times.

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