Alberta Street--Portland, OR
Alberta Street is a popular destination for both tourists and locals alike in Portland, Oregon. The street stretches across the northern most areas of the city and is lined with a variety of art boutiques, restaurants, and local retailers. In fact, a twenty block section of the street serves as the core of the arts, restaurant, and shopping district of northern Portland.
Backstory and Context
Alberta Street was established in the 1880s by immigrants. Street cars came along in 1903 and businesses and residential developments began to spring up. Full of German and Russian immigrants, the area was flourishing in the 1920s. However, the streetcars stopped in the late 1940s and new roads for automobile traffic pulled business away.
The area entered into a period of perpetual decline in the early 1950s. The emergence of publicly funded projects significantly altered long established patterns of transportation and population distribution. The trend continued into the '60s and '70s and was hastened by the development and construction of Interstate 5. The new highway system led to the relocation of thousands of residents and drew the little remaining economic capital from the area. High levels of crime, poverty, and violence characterized the area by the early 1980s and the street soon became a popular destination for gang members of both the Bloods and Crips.
However, a grassroots movement led by the North/Northeast Economic Development Task Force and the Sabin Community Development Corporation rejuvenated the area. Artist and activist Roslyn Hill is largely credited with beginning the revival of Alberta Street. In 1993, Hill purchased a dilapidated building at the corner of 14th Place and Alberta. Hill sought to maintain Black ownership in the area and, with the assistance of a storefront improvement loan, opened a garden café.
Today Alberta Street is lined with local artists and entrepreneurs. Artisans and vendors line the street during the last Thursday of every month for an art walk. Street performers and food vendors turn the event into an authentic street fair. It has become known as the Alberta Arts District and has become a destination by itself.