The Pearl District

The Pearl is one of this area’s newest and most famous neighborhoods. Formerly a warehouse district, the Pearl is now a collection of slick condo complexes and hip restaurants and lounges. Here, you’ll find block after block of galleries and home furnishing stores that cover the entire spectrum from imported Chinese antiques to the latest in ultra modern stylings.

It wouldn’t do the Pearl justice to pick a few highlights to point out. The truth is that I haven’t been everywhere yet, and each time I think I’m catching up with the latest, I find that 3 more places have opened their doors. I’ll hit a few of the basics and let you fill in the blanks with your own exploration. One centerpiece of the Pearl is Powell’s Books, located at N Burnside and 10th). This place is a Bermuda Triangle for readers. Easily the biggest book store in the city, this Portland institution fills a warehouse-sized building that occupies an entire city block. Spend a couple hours browsing floor after floor of books, then have a lifter at their coffee shop and go browse some more. Portland loves to recycle so bring your used books to the NW entrance and pick up some store credit. Just west of Powell’s is the Pearl’s upscale grocery store, Whole Foods. This part of the Pearl is referred to as the Brewery Blocks for the old Henry Weinhardt’s brewery that used to be there. The only thing left of the brewery is a restaurant that still bears the name, Henry’s. Also in the Brewery Blocks, you’ll find PF Chang’s and the upscale restaurant, 1001 Hoyt, as well as retailers, Diesel, West Elm and Anthropology.

Another centerpiece in the Pearl is The Gerding Theater at the Armory (shown above – 128 NW 11th Avenue). The old Portland Armory, built in 1891 was recently rehabbed into a theater. That by itself isn’t that unique, but what was unique was that this was the first (and may still be the only) theater in the U.S. to get a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification. After completion, the building was ranked by Forbes magazine as one of the top 12 green buildings in the US. The stunning interior of the building was constructed using green building standards in both design and construction materials. The theater is the home to Portland Center Stage, a local production company that puts on both plays and musicals to mostly rave reviews. I usually end up seeing 4 or 5 of their productions each year. Just down the street from the Armory is Jimmy Mak’s (221 NW 10th, 503-295-6542), a long time jazz club that is enjoying its slick new location. Stop in and enjoy live music most nights of the week. At 11th and Everett you can find 2 uber hip lounges, District and The Vault. Fancy cocktails and a fancier crowd are par for the course just about every night of the week. Also of note for restaurants are Bluehour (250 NW 13th, 503-226-3394) and Oba (555 NW 12th, 503-228-6161), which has a great happy hour menu and is a favorite stop on the 1st Thursday art walk, when Pearl galleries and home furnishings stores open their doors and few bottles of wine for patrons. I usually don’t get to make the walk myself, because I use it as an opportunity to hold open condo listings in the area.

There are several new projects in the works in the Pearl (as usual), and I’m excited about a number of them. The first is The Lovejoy (at NW 12th and Lovejoy). Originally slated as a condo project, the Lovejoy’s developers have flipped the project into an apartment complex. That’s not that interesting for me, but slated to be on the first floor of the complex is a new Safeway store, finally giving the North Pearl area a convenient place to shop. By way of Condos, there are three big projects that are nearing completion.

First is The 937, (NW Glisan and 9th), a 200+ unit project which is shooting for LEED Gold Certification. Second is The Encore located at NW 9th and Overton. I’ve looked at some of the design elements being incorporated into the building, and I’m truly excited to see the end product. The arc shape of the building makes me think of a Las Vegas casino and will have a unique look in Portland.

The Waterfron Pearl Complex on the Willamette RiverA third big project of note is the Waterfront Pearl complex. These twin 10-story buildings sit right on the Willamette at 9th AVE and promise a grand lobby with 24 hour concierge and all the ameneties you would expect from a modern luxury complex.