Finding an apartment is never an easy task, especially in a large metro area like Portlandia. There are a huge number of choices, and the internet has made finding options almost too easy. On top of this, landlords in Portland tend to speak a slightly different language than the standard English most of us are accustomed to. Even more confusing, they use English words and phrases we all are familiar with, but they attach different meanings to them. This is a guide to help close the language barrier.
A reasonable person’s definition of “close-in” in the Portland area is downtown and the adjacent neighborhoods on the west side of the river (Pearl District, NW 23rd, South Waterfront, Lair Hill, etc.) and the inner SE neighborhoods, i.e. those west of Caesar Chavez (39th), and maybe some of the Mt. Tabor area. However, if you are a landlord, “close-in” means virtually any property inside the Urban Growth Boundary. I have seen listings in Cedar Hill (on the other side of the West Hills, in a completely different city) that were “close-in”. I haven’t seen anyone try to pass off Vancouver as close-in, but it is just a matter of time.
South Waterfront/John’s Landing
Many neighborhoods in Portland tend to overlap, have fuzzy boundaries or multiple names, so it is not unusual to see a listing with more than one neighborhood attached. If you didn’t know better, you might think this is the case with the South Waterfront and John’s Landing, at least if you are reading a listing placed by a landlord in the South Waterfront. They aren’t the same neighborhood, and traveling between the two is actually surprisingly difficult at present. But, it is easy to see why the giant developers in the South Waterfront would want to try to latch on to it’s neighbor to the south: John’s Landing is a historic neighborhood with lots of character, thriving businesses and plenty of restaurants. The South Waterfront is a fledgling development built on a brownfield that feels devoid of character and soul, and is definitely devoid of retail and eating establishments. You wouldn’t confuse the two, ever.
If a property is so far on the east side that even a landlord can’t bring themselves to list it as “close-in”, then they use the more neutral “SE Portland”. While this is a fairly well-defined area for normal people, a landlord’s “SE Portland” extends from I-205 to the foothills of Mt. Hood. They will also claim a drive time of “10-15 minutes” to downtown, which is true at 3:00am if you don’t mind driving 80mph. Which brings us to…
15 minutes from downtown Portland
30 minutes from downtown Portland, with no traffic. 60 minutes any time that really matters. If it was really “15 minutes from downtown”, then it would be in a close-in neighborhood…and they would be telling you all about that, instead.
Mt. Tabor area
Somewhere in the box contained by I-84, I-205, Powell Blvd. and the river. Good rule of thumb: If it rents for less than $1500/month, it isn’t on Mt. Tabor.
OHSU,Downtown Waterfront, SW Downtown
Not downtown. Probably South Waterfront…unless it is that weird neighborhood perched above OHSU where no one but OHSU employees could possibly want to live. But not downtown.