South Waterfront: What Went Wrong?

Despite a billion dollar investment, Portland’s newest neighborhood has not met expectations. People are quietly asking, “What went wrong in the Central District?” Conceived as a lively 24/7 mixed-use community within the South Waterfront, and blessed with urban renewal money and an ideal central city location, the neighborhood is notable today for its empty storefronts and lack of outside visitors. Although it was not their goal, city planners and the Portland Design Commission seem to have invented the city’s quietest neighborhood. What is the problem? Are their lessons to be learned? Can it be fixed?



We received this comment in an email from viewer Tim Davis:

“Regarding South Waterfront, I really think that it’s going to take time.  It’s already fascinating to walk or bike through the area, and the retail will likely catch up, but it will probably take ten years.  The closest approximation is Vancouver’s Southeast False Creek, which was declared a “DISASTER” after the Olympics.  Well, look at it now!  It’s getting more vibrant by the week.  SEFC turned out to be a very well thought-out neighborhood after all, and I think that South Waterfront will soon become an incredibly attractive place to live, work, shop and play, as well.”


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