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Vision For a Garden City

Portland’s urban density has been on our minds a lot lately. With an exploding population and numbers like 750,000 predicted by 2050, we can’t help wonder how the city will manage that growth. Where’s everybody going to live? And how are we going to maintain our sustainability? Some worry that we’re on a fast track to becoming the next San Francisco. Demand for desirable housing is rapidly exceeding supply and the rental market is skyrocketing to insane rates. No wonder people are concerned.

But the fact is, Portland’s city core is not that dense compared to other West Coast cities. Current data ranks us eighth in persons per square mile. Our ‘burbs are taking up the slack. We’re seeing a tremendous housing boom, but a lot of new construction includes homes in outlying regions. At the rate we’re going, the Portland metro area is set to experience “sprawl on steroids,” according to Rick Potestio, a local architect who’s gotten a lot of press lately for his vision of Portland as a dense, garden city.

Imagine our future Portland concentrating mixed housing in an urban “commons” with tree-lined streets, retail and commercial businesses, schools, social clubs, and a variety of old homes, condos, and apartment buildings. Sound like what we have now? Not exactly. The data says otherwise. But neighborhoods like Portland King’s Heights and Goose Hollow are strong models.

Historically this building pattern works. Many of Portland’s close-in neighborhoods developed incrementally in the early 1900s where working-class bungalows filled in around well-to-do mansions. Toss in a fire station, a few independently owned cafes and shops and you have the makings of an affordable, diverse, and equitable, community without compromising on the urban growth boundary. The key is achieving an average density of 18-25 units per square acre, according to Potestio.

Of course none of us can be certain how this will all play out, but it’s inevitable that housing prices will go up dramatically in the next 15-20 years. If you’ve ever, even so-slightly tinkered with the idea of investing in real estate, now could be the ideal time. Especially so for a rental property.

Ready to participate in Portland’s urban future? Call Portland Home Team to get a conversation started.