3. Living on the edge is worth it.
Beyond the suburbs, where the rolling green of farmland hasn’t yet been corrupted by the gray of development, lie the exurbs. At least that’s the term author August Comte Spectorsky coined in the 1950s to describe these commuter towns in rural settings. Beaverton used to be one. So did Hillsboro. Now these towns qualify as suburbs, while the exurb label has been tacked onto places like Damascus or Vernonia.
Although a relatively static urban growth boundary kept Portland’s exurbs sleeping from the 1960s to the ’90s, they’re starting to revive. In fact, over the next 30 years or so, Metro predicts Damascus and Bethany, on the tri-county region’s eastern and western edges, will experience population booms of about 900 percent. That’s due in part to the nearly 19,000-acre expansion, in 2002, of the urban growth boundary, which now envelops these areas.
What does where you live say about your personality? A lot, apparently.
Plus, as Gerard Mildner, director of Portland State University’s Center for Real Estate, points out, many people don’t need to commute downtown for work anymore, either because their job is in a suburb or because they work from home. Nor do they need to drive to Portland for play: Some suburbs have become unique cultural centers of their own. Beaverton, for example, boasts Uwajimaya, one of the largest Asian food markets in the metro area, as well as quality sushi restaurants like Hakatamon. Which means living in the exurbs no longer means giving up on going out. —KC
4. Scoring a sweet condo just got easier.
Remember back in 2000, when selling a condo was as simple as saying, “Granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and a Pearl District address”? Well, those days have gone the way of the 20-minute morning commute. As of late February, there were around 2,500 condos listed for sale in the metro area—the largest cache of unsold units in the city’s (relatively short) condo-market history, according to Gary Winkler, a senior real estate broker with Colliers International. For sellers looking to unload their lofts, that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing—if the demand for condos had kept pace with the supply. But it hasn’t. While there are three times as many condos on the market now as there were in the heyday of the early 2000s, demand remains essentially the same. “There are so many condos now, buyers can take their time deciding and haggle for the best price,” says John Becker, a broker with Realty Trust in the Pearl. “The people selling are really feeling the pinch.”
No one understands this better than real estate investor and developer Robert Ball. Condos in Ball’s 18-floor Pearl District behemoth, the Wyatt, went on the market in November 2006 at $500 per square foot. Nearly a year later, only 56 out of the 245 units had been sold. Compare this with the brisk sales pace of the nearby Gregory building, which had sold all but one of its 133 units between January 2000, when they first went on the market, and September 2001. Last fall, Ball converted the Wyatt into a rental property, sold it to California billionaire John Sobrato for $111.5 million and has since taken on no new condo development projects. Such a sagging market may make developers like Ball reach for the Alka-Seltzer, but for buyers, it just might make purchasing your dream condo as easy as saying, “Have down payment, will buy.” —SW
5. Our city is going gray.
Portland may like to consider itself one of the country’s greenest cities—both in terms of landscape and sustainability—but we’re also one of the grayest. And we’re not just talking about the weather: Researchers at Portland State University’s College of Urban and Public Affairs predict our senior population—those 65 and older—will grow by a whopping 137 percent in the next 30 or so years, eventually making up more than 17 percent of the total population. (Portland’s overall population is expected to grow by about 47 percent in the same period.) While this trend is affecting the entire country as baby boomers age, the shift is particularly notable in Portland—in fact, the New York Times Magazine reports that only six large cities in the country outpaced Portland in the growth of 55- to 64-year-olds from 1990 to 2005, among them Las Vegas, Austin and Phoenix.
So just where will our graying population go as they retire? Nowhere. In their 2006 report on how aging Portlanders will affect housing trends, PSU’s researchers found that many folks stay put after age 50, and certainly after 60. That means areas with a large population of older Portlanders—like those adjacent to and just outside of the urban growth boundary, as well as in the Pearl, Alameda and Irvington neighborhoods, and some of the newer subdivisions near Forest Park—will likely need better public transportation and improved access to medical care. And the early decisions that aging Portlanders’ are likely to make about where to retire also means that South Waterfront and Pearl District developers had better act fast if they want to convince baby boomers to give up that big two-car garage in favor of a two-minute walk to the theater. —KC