November 9, 2018

I have a new book title—Pearl District with a sub title of PLACEMAKING FROM THE GROUND UP. The cover design has also changed replacing the previous image with an oblique aerial view of NW 13 Avenue looking south. The current picture is of the street in the mid-1980s. And I’m thinking of putting another photograph on the back cover.

I finally have a complete first draft although various sections have been revised several times already. But it’s now time for serious revisions because I have 144,000 plus words. There’s an ending, but I have a finally section entitled “Further Away and Now.” There are a couple of major projects including the master planning for the redevelopment of Portland’s main post office site. I want to include a brief narrative about where the urban planning process is with respect to this project as it will have a significant impact on what the Pearl becomes in the future.

With luck the book will be published in Spring 2019 or early summer.

Blog — Visions of the Pearl

WHAT RYAN DOESN KNOW!--March 20, 2018

Today I happened to find a post by Ryan Bellinson, who lives in Europe, about the Pearl District on the Internet under the heading:  

The Pearl: A Gentrification Story from Portland posted February 1, 2016.  Here are a few excerpts:   

Just 30 years ago the Pearl District was the most dilapidated, bleak neighborhood in the city; an abandoned industrial neighborhood inhabited by the homeless, seemingly forgotten by the rest of the city. The Pearl District’s remarkable raise from a forgotten, ugly stain on the city’s image to one of the most recognizable neighborhoods in the Pacific Northwest did happen by accident. 

In part due to low real estate cost, developers began punching land and slowly redeveloping in The Pearl District throughout the 1980s. 1994 marked a year for the Pearl District in which rapid gentrification truly took its form, Portland planners published their River District Development Plan, an urban renewal project centered around gentrifying northwest Portland, most substantially the Pearl District.


I couldn't let this stand so I posted a reply called these comments "rubbish."  The guy can't find the right word to use.  He knows nothing about Portland's homeless population and where they live.  He knows absolutely nothing about what happened in the NW Triangle in the 80s and early 90s.  He doesn't know the difference between what was happening in the NW Industrial Triangle and the River District before 1997.  He has no idea how and where adaptive reuse occurred in contrast to new construction by HSP, Inc. 


I have created a new author website.  It can be found at: 

I may end up posting some materials on that site from time to time as there is a page for the Visions book on it.  

I am back writing on the Visions book.  I have nearly 150,000, and I am still integrating and writing from research materials--mainly personal interviews I did over the last two years.  I continue to call people back to confirm dates and information.  A lot happened over the thirty-odd years of the Pearl District growth.  And it's still happening with the last blocks in the North Pearl filling out, teardowns in the South Pearl to put up taller buildings and the ongoing master planning effort for the post office site and related areas around Union Station and the west bridgehead of the Broadway Bridge.  

At this point I will cut off my narrative with whatever happens to the post office site in 2018.


I have created an website  for published books and books in process.  It can be accessed at: 

Progress on the "Visions of the Pearl" manuscript will be posted on that site occasionally now that my novel "Reflections of an Adolescence" is finished.  It will available on that website and on around mid December 2017.  

I have returned to writing on the Visions book and have nearly 150.000 words at this point.  My best guess is a finished manuscript is about a year away.  Then there's always the copy editing bit.  


Process at 11.5.2016

42,000 words plus at this point.  Still doing a few interviews of people I have spoken with earlier.  Got to get my facts right.  I've tweaked the organization at bit.  The story now has five main parts:


The opening words continue to the beginning at this point:

The Pioneers


HE USED TO STROLL ALONG NW 13th AVENUE between Kearney and Davis Streets, but with intent.  What he saw sparked his imagination.  Back in the late 1970s and early 80s his eyes were drawn to the historic stock of old warehouses that lined that street.  Most of the old manufacturing uses were long gone.  A few businesses remained.  But many of the structures were vacant except for maybe a single floor or two. 

   Back then NW 13th was a rutted gravel street.  A railroad spur track defined the center of the road.  During the day and even at night trains rumbled through the district bringing grain and other materials to the Blitz Brewery.  Later boxcars filled with kegs and cases of beer rolled out of the plant in route to out-of-state distributors.  If you lived in Portland you can visit the tasting room.  Here and there box trucks and a few cars butted up to surrounding warehouses walls and loading docks.  




First Draft--progress at 10.10.2016

The manuscript is about 40,000 words at this point.  But after rereading the first twenty pages I was bored.  If I was bored, what would a reader think?  So I'm already in rewrite on the beginning.         I did write up a kind of intro called Author's Note.  Here it is: 


Portland’s city form would be vastly differently today had the city implemented the Robert Moses 1943 Plan for Portland.  Up until the late 1960s, the city didn’t even have a definite plan for the downtown area.  However, in the late 1960s, local community leaders became concerned, and by 1972, a plan for the downtown was in place. 

     A year earlier I had arrived in Portland having driven half way across the country seeking my fortune.  Within a few weeks the architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill hired me.  I worked at SOM for four years and then moved to Australia.  By 1980, I was back in Portland, and in 1984, I formed an investment group that purchased an old warehouse in what was then known as the Northwest Industrial Triangle. 

     Years later while beginning my research for this book, I spoke with Ken Unkeles who had owned the Carton Service building directly across the street from that old warehouse.  During our conversation Ken reminded me of the first time we met.  In fact, “I’ve written about it,” he said.

   “Where?” I asked.

   “Well, I’ve written a hundred pages or so about the Pearl,” was his answer.  We chatted, and I discovered Ken had been working on a personal story about his experiences centered on the Carton Service business .  So I asked him, “I’d love to read something you’ve written.”  A couple days later I got an email with the following text:


And then the developers came. The first one to show up at the Service was Bruce Johnson.  A slender, fast-talking landscape architect, maybe a few years older than Ken. Johnson dropped by one day on a courtesy call to introduce himself, and announce his partnership's purchase of the "Gadsby Building" across the street. Kenny had gone to school with the Gadsby girls, had taken Ellen, the middle girl to the movies a time or two, and knew their family had previously owned the building.  But it was a surprise to hear it called that. He asked Johnson: "Since when is it the Gadsby Building?"

      Johnson replied, “We think it’s an appropriate honorarium.”

     “Honorarium?” Kenny mused.  “That’s a big word for 13th and Hoyt.”  Everybody laughed.

     Harold asked next, “If you’re a partnership, and now it’s called the Gadsby Building, what’s going to happen to the tenants?”

     Interesting question Kenny thought.  The main tenant over there was Kramer Manufacturing, a manufacturer of quickly made mattresses. Though a Carton Service customer, there was intermittent tension between the two outfits over testosteronic protocol. The mattress guys occupied the top three floors of the five-story building and on nice days would hang out by the open windows looking down at the Carton Service loading dock and entrance.  At the slightest hint of a female form approaching, catcalls and whistles rained down across the alley onto startled customers of the feminine persuasion. Although not off the uncouth meter for the neighborhood in general, this was found offensive at The Service, and certainly not part of the twin's customer service format.

      Complaints to the Kramer family had been compassionately received, but only partially effective in slowing the harassment. A "boys will be boys" attitude prevailed over finer sensibilities. When pressed by one of the twins, the elder Kramer left little room for negotiation: " If you got a workplace where a man breaks a sweat during his shift, then you've got a working class business.  And if you got a bunch of working class businesses in one area, like we do here, then you got a working class neighborhood.  We’re not wearing suits and ties over here. What do you want from me?" Such was the sentiment over at Kramer Manufacturing.

      Bruce Johnson never hesitated: "They will be relocated.”   Harold and Gerald roared with laughter.

      That’s what Mao said about the landlords in China just before he chopped off their heads." Harold replied.   Bruce made no comment and Ken walked out with him as he left.

      "What're you going to do over there?" he asked.

      “Artist studios” Bruce said. "It's perfect for artists. Tall ceilings, brick walls, eastern light...they're going to love it." Johnson left and Kenny paused to look up to the west at the big brick box of a building across the alley. It was late summer and it blocked the sun perfectly, casting its shadow across the Carton Service dock, cooling the hot dusty street. He looked up to see one of the mattress guys lean out a fifth floor window, hack up a mass of phlegm, puff out his cheeks and spit stupendously down onto the alley below. The spittle thudded dully, like a lofted golf ball landing in sand. Displaced dust rose up into the air from the edges of the crater the spit- ball created and mingled with the cloudy haze of 13th Avenue. Artists?  Kenny wondered to himself, what the hell is that guy thinking?


So I have some history in the Pearl… 




Let's begin...

The storyline has its genesis in the mayoral era of Neil Goldschmidt and a legislation act by the State of Oregon known as Senate Bill 100 that changed the fundamental nature of land use planning and regulation in Oregon in the 1970s.

   The narrative focuses on how the contributions of individuals--their personal visions and achievements—culminated in the Pearl District.   At various points in time, the developers, city officials, bureaucrats, residents thought it was complete. But it isn’t.  The district is an urban organism that continues to change from decade to decade.  It’s visual theater at its best.

   Portland’s downtown core reinvented itself with the Pearl and became a urban design model for successful placemaking.   The book traces the planning and development process over forty years addressing basic questions about how and why this urban neighborhood was a successful transformation.