Where to move in Portland, OR?
April 12, 2006 5:55 PM   Subscribe

If you were a 26 year old, poor, recent college graduate that wanted to move to Portland, OR what neighborhood would be the best to live in?

I will be heading out to Portland in mid-May and am going to attempt to find an apartment there. I have four days. Thing is, I have never been there and all I know is from what I've read in this book. Why am I going there? I lived in Corvallis from age 3-5 and have very vivid and fond memories of this time in my life. I want to go back to the place that spawned these memories. Also, I've heard Portland is filled with a lot of nice folks and many lovely waterfalls. Please let me know if this is booshit, but most of all let me know about the areas and neighborhoods that make up Portland. I don't have much time! Any other tips or insider information would be most appreciated.
posted by rokabiri to Travel & Transportation around Portland, OR (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Your best bet is probably NE, somewhere W of 82nd. West of 39th, if possible. SE is nice too, but maybe too spendy?
posted by TonyRobots at 6:07 PM on April 12, 2006

What is your budget for an apartment? Do you want to live by yourself or have housemates? What sort of things are you interested in? What kinds of bars / restaurants do you like? What are YOU like? Do you have a car or will you be biking / taking public transportation?

If you fit the demographic profile of what I perceive the average metafilter user to be, you probably want to live in the inner North, North East, or South East areas. But, really, where you live is likely to end up being dictated by your budget.

You can get a one-bedroom apartment in the neighborhoods I just mentioned for anywhere from $575 / month on up. Way up. Studios are cheaper; shares, cheaper still. But we need more information about you, your interests, and your budget to REALLY help you.
posted by dersins at 6:29 PM on April 12, 2006

Well, the waterfalls are mostly a ways out of town, but Portland does indeed have a relatively high percentage of nice folks. I grew up in Corvallis and now live in Portland and I love it.

As for a place to live, I have no idea what cheap means to you, but I would say the smartest thing to do would be to rent the cheapest place you can find on the MAX line (light rail) without signing a lease. Then you'll be close to all the glorious public transportation and can make a concerted effort to find a nice place you'd really like. I mean, if you have a job lined up or a really cushioned savings account, my advice would be to try Southeast near Reed College or Clinton Street, or North Portland near Killingsworth/Alberta. Even Northwest Portland (Nob Hill area) has some affordable places if you're willing to live with roommates.

But really, Portland has a pretty shitty job market and if you're planning on living just from your savings for any amount of time, really, think about a cheap apartment on the way to Gresham but near the MAX line. You'll be able to get around really easily to find a job or a more permanent place to live and it won't break the bank like living in more "close-in" can. After all, as long as you don't sign a lease you can go wherever you want after you get a feel for the city and where you're going to be working and whatnot.

Anywhere on the blue line MAX out past, say, 82nd Ave on the east side should be cheap (and probably quick to accept you in the few days that you have to get it worked out) and still enable you to get around town to explore what you like here. In any case, look at craigslist before you come to get some idea what average rents are, and above all enjoy Portland - it's a great city (at least until you've dated here enough that you start running in to exes at every show you ever attend).
posted by pikachulolita at 6:30 PM on April 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

John's Landing.

The only part of Potland I'd live in now (I've been gone from there for almost 4 years though, I lived on Alberta from 96-02, and it's a pretty gross neighborhood now, all "gentrified" and shit)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:33 PM on April 12, 2006

I was a 23-year-old poor recent college graduate when I moved here five years ago. It's a great place to be. And even though the job market is always just a little bit short of the job market in the rest of the country, it's pretty good these days.

Portland has five "quadrants," described here, and I've lived in three of them so far -- Southwest, Southeast and Northeast.

I'd definitely recommend the east side (Southeast, Northeast, North) for a young person looking for creative, hip, vibrant and affordable neighborhoods. The west side has some very nice stuff and a couple of colleges, but much of that part of town is expensive, yuppieish and/or suburban in feel.

I'm in Northeast west of 39th right now, and I really like it. Before this, I lived in Southeast west of 39th, and I liked that too. I wouldn't want to live north of Portland Boulevard or south of Woodstock personally, just because I'd be too far from the center of things, but there are some very nice neighborhoods out there too.

Some good neighborhood names to watch for in Northeast: Killingsworth, Alberta, Laurelhurst, Irvington, Hollywood (though the last two are pretty trendy & spendy). In Southeast: Belmont, Hawthorne. Try not to live too close to Powell because it's loud.

The city is very beautiful, and you should definitely be able to afford a place in or on the edge of a very nice neighborhood. In addition to craigslist, the Willamette Week and the Portland Mercury have apartment listings. I would never take a place that charged more than about $500 a month as a one bedroom/studio or more than $400 a month for a spot as someone's roommate, but that's just me. You can get really nice places for more than that, and so-so places a little bit away from the action for less than that. Until this year (when I moved somewhere quite a bit bigger and nicer), I've never had to pay more than $325 as a roommate.

If you do livejournal, you should check out the "damnportlanders" community for more thoughts on Portland.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 6:41 PM on April 12, 2006 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Have any Portlander's lived in Chicago before? I'm looking for something that is like Logan Square [where I currently pay $675 for a decent 2 bedroom] and NOT like Wicker Park.

Rent I can afford:
Studio/1 BR $300-$575

About me:
- Just graduated from Library Science school
- I have no job lined up
- I like eating food, cooking food, and I collect bizzare-o cookbooks
- I watch most TV on my computer
- I like computers and computer-related things
- I have a car but will use it only when forced
- I read mostly comic books and non-fiction
- I want to have a cat
- I drink and don't mind dives as long as there is a decent jukebox
- I am sort of a homebody so I would like some place cozy where I can hopefully stay awhile
- I'm not afraid of somewhat 'ghetto' areas -- I have a yellow belt in karate and can defend myself if I must

Also, here is a list of my 'interests' from my lj page:
amc pop classics, basil kirchin, brewster mccloud, burke-o-vision, butterfly collars, chain gangs, dr. mario marathons, gelg, maynard g. krebs, monsterism, no-goodniks, oh you men!, pastry house hippo, the mighty googolplex, the snood, ukulele magic.

I apologize if this is more than you needed/wanted to know. I just hope this helps You help Me!
posted by rokabiri at 6:52 PM on April 12, 2006

There are no real ghettos in Portland, just yuppie neighborhoods, gentrified neighborhoods, nice neighborhoods, working class neighborhoods, poor neighborhoods, pretty neighborhoods, moderately less pretty neighborhoods and condoes.

You will have an incredibly difficult time finding a library job here. There are waiting lists to get interviewed for those things. However, the libraries are very nice. You will probably also have a hard time even just finding a bookstore job.

This is a great city for foodies and comic book collectors and public transportation users.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:00 PM on April 12, 2006

- I am sort of a homebody so I would like some place cozy where I can hopefully stay awhile

Honestly, you're better off finding a place where you can stay in the short term while you get to know the city's various neighborhoods and find what you like.

Based on how you have described yourself, I stand by my earlier "inner north / NE / SE" assertion. Croutonsoupafreak already mentioned most of the specific neighborhoods I would have suggested, but I will add a couple: the Mississippi area in North Portland, Kerns in SE/ NE (the area centered around 28th & E. Burnside), and Sullivan's Gulch in NE. All of these have desireable services (bars, restaurants, etc.), relatively affordable rents, and decent access to public transportation. Especially much of Sulivan's Gulch, which is close to the Lloyd Center, and thus a FREE train ride to down town on the MAX (the local light rail).

If you have specific neighborhood questions about, say, craigslist listings or whatever, feel free to email me. It's in the profile.
posted by dersins at 7:17 PM on April 12, 2006

If you are on Livejournal, check out the damnportlanders com- they are always helpful and full of advice. For what you can afford I suggest getting a roommate or renting a room from craigslist.

I would also second what someone said about the library-- just to be a p/t page turned out well over 1,000 applicants. Start looking through job postings ASAP- employers here are in no rush to hire anyone (unless you like call centers).
posted by haplesschild at 7:25 PM on April 12, 2006

Go for SE. Right around Reed is spendy (but very nice), but a bit north of there has cheaper rentals.
posted by devilsbrigade at 7:44 PM on April 12, 2006

Ironically, Chuck Palahniuk's old neighborhood, the Northwest, is pretty spendy nowadays, so I don't think I would recommend it, even though it's a nice place and affords a nice walk to Powell's. When I lived there, we paid $850 for a lovely one bedroom + apartment in a beautiful old building on 21st and Hoyt.

Now we live in the Alberta area, below Alberta and west of 33rd, which far from "gentrified" is now a quirky, growing-pains enduring neighborhood with coffeeshops, taquerias, nice restaurants, a video store, and the Clown House. I love it and would recommend anything between NE 18th and 33rd, below Killingsworth. I do second the bit about being close to MAX or bus, though. If you bike, though, you can get around nicely, though if you don't like riding in the rain, it's more a seasonal thing.
posted by cacahuete at 10:53 PM on April 12, 2006

The wife 'n' I move to Portland site unseen in 1999 as poor, young, 20-somethings. We ended up picking up a small place on the Northwest side (18th 'n' Everett) which was, to be honest, a mixed bag. Loved the neighborhood, but the car got broken into by crackheads about a billion times.

When we moved to the Southeast side just off Hawthorne, I think we were a lot happier... but different strokes for different folks.

I will say this, though -- moving to Portland was the best decision we ever made. It took us a little while to kind of establish ourselves, but Portland is filled with smart, interesting people and it worked out just fine in the end.

Anyway, now I live in Phoenix and I constantly scheme to escape back to the Pacific Northwest.
posted by ph00dz at 6:29 AM on April 13, 2006

OK, I know your mind is made up, but to be honest -- Portland is one of those places you love until you leave it, and then you go, "God, that place sucked..."

The first thing you'll need to do is buy a rain slicker. I reccomend gore-tex. Seriously. Only thing that will keep you dry there. I had gore-tex shoes, gore-tex jacket, gore-tex hats, and I waterproofed my jeans.

That being said, I lived there for 10 years, and I know most of the nooks and crannies in that town. The up and coming place to live is in Northeast by MLK. The cool place to live where you possibly won't be able to afford an apartment is Hawthorne, Sellwood, and other areas of SE west of 40th.

If I were moving to Portland on the cheap, I'd scan Craigslist for a house that has or wants a person and a cat, and I'd live somewhere up along MLK somewhere near Graham. It's a good neighbourhood, and there's a great dive bar just south.

Apartments will seem cheap to you, but the rates are skyrocketing. I was paying $680/mo for a very nice apartment in Lake Oswego for two years... and then my rent went up to $850/mo last year. I left.

Don't live in John's Landing. It's becoming Yuppieville central. There's a great little community centered right around the Fulton Pub, but a McMenamin's can't really be a dive bar either. There's something to be said about the progressiveness of Portland's urban planning and the density they've created (I don't think I drove more than 25 minutes ... unless I was sitting in a traffic jam ... the whole past 5 years or so), but it's pushing people who can't afford to pay rediculous rents far out of the city that those people created, and making homeownership impossile for the 20something generation.

Now, to prepare you, grab a PBR, go watch the Dandy Warhols' "Bohemian Like You" video (WARNING: NFSW!!!! This video contains nudty.) and get ready for some good vegan cooking!
posted by SpecialK at 7:38 AM on April 13, 2006

Portland is one of those places you love until you leave it, and then you go, "God, that place sucked..."

Actually, shortly after I left Portland (for NYC) I began thinking "God I miss Portland. I need to move back there. Five years later, I did. And I couldn't be happier.

I reccomend gore-tex. Seriously. Only thing that will keep you dry there.

I've never owned Gore-tex anything. SpecialK exaggerates. Although it rains on most days from about October through March or April or so, it doesn't rain all day, and almost never rains very hard. It's more of a sprinkling mist-type thing most days.

Apartments will seem cheap to you, but the rates are skyrocketing. I was paying $680/mo for a very nice apartment in Lake Oswego for two years... and then my rent went up to $850/mo last year. I left.

When I left Portland in 2000, I was paying $550 / month for a great one bedroom on the border between Irvington and Sullivan's Gulch. When I returned last year, I got an almost identical apartment just a few blocks away for $650 / month. My rent hasn't gone up, and nor has the rent of the other apartments in my building, several of which have turned over in the intervening time. An 18% increase over 6 years is not exactly "skyrocketing." Rent may have risen significantly in Lake Oswego, but Lake Oswego is an affluent suburb of Portland, not a part of the city itself.

go watch the Dandy Warhols' "Bohemian Like You" video

For what it's worth, I don't know a single person in Portland who actually takes the Dandies seriously, so I'm not sure what your point is here.

MY point is that Portland is a great place to live, whether right after college or later in life. Despite the fact that real estate (purchase) prices HAVE skyrocketed in the last 5 -7 years, rental prices have not kept pace. If you are willing to live with roommates, you can have a great lifestyle here while working a transitional, service industry job and waiting to get a job in your chosen field. (Which will, admittedly, probably take awhile, as others have noted. The job market here is not so great. That's why I left in the first place 6 years ago.)
posted by dersins at 9:07 AM on April 13, 2006

I agree with dersins. I've been here almost 11 years and live near Alberta. Also don't own Gore-tex or take the Dandy Warhols seriously.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 10:15 AM on April 13, 2006

Oh, be aware that Oregon has no sales tax, but they make it up on income and property taxes.
posted by SpecialK at 1:08 PM on April 13, 2006

I moved from Chicago to Portland in 2001. You are about to trade up, my friend. The Logan Square/Wicker Park analogy just doesn't really hold--the cities are too different. I do have to say that hating Wicker Park in general bodes well for someone moving to just about any part of Portland.

Your best bet is probably the general area defined by other posters: east of the river, west of 82nd (west of 39th if you can afford it). I live in Kerns, right around Burnside (Portland's "equator"), and I'm pretty much in love with my part of town as well as those to our north and south.

If you really like Chicago, really dig the "bigness" of the city, Portland may fail to satisfy. I get that a little. It is by far the greatest small city I've ever lived in, but it is not a metropolis. I've found myself completely in love with the city but accepting that I will have to move on one day.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 3:47 PM on April 13, 2006

Response by poster: Wowza. Mefi comes through yet again! Thanks everyone for all the great info. I can't tell you how much this has already helped me.
posted by rokabiri at 4:55 PM on April 13, 2006

I haven't lived in Portland for about four years, but if things are still the same, I'd reiterate the Hawthorne recommendation. It was fairly young and hip, and you'd probably like being close to Powell's cookbook branch. The apartments right on Hawthorne are probably a little spendy, but the surrounding neighborhood probably isn't too bad (one of my friends had a great cheap apartment on Belmont, just north).

When I was going to Reed, I lived in a nice, clean one-bedroom just south of 39th and Powell -- if I remember correctly, it was about $450/month. It was a little far from the action (if you don't count the goddamn swinger's club right down the street).

I miss Portland very much, and no, I didn't own any Goretex. Good luck!
posted by liet at 5:35 PM on April 13, 2006

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