Once a neighborhood of warehouses and rail yards, The Pearl District (or just “The Pearl”) is now a thriving community of art galleries, high-end businesses and trendy pubs and restaurants. The neighborhood attracts young professionals and urban families looking to live in the heart of Portland.
Despite the towering apartment complexes and warehouses, The Pearl is also home to green spaces like The Fields Park, Tanner Springs Park and Jamison Square. Whether it’s a rainy Pacific Northwest afternoon or a sunny Portland summer day, you can find a reprieve in the galleries and shops that give The Pearl District its unique flavor.
Where is The Pearl District?
Depending on who you ask, The Pearl District is either a separate neighborhood or part of Downtown Portland. The Pearl District is situated around some of the trendiest areas in Portland. The neighborhood lies west of Nob Hill, north of Downtown Portland’s urban core and the popular Goose Hollow community.
The history of The Pearl District is open to debate. Some tales say the name arose from an oyster-canning factory sitting in the midst of crumbling warehouses. Others say that seafarers from China hid a treasure trove of pears underneath Twelfth Street. The most reliable story tells of a local gallery owner gave the neighborhood its name after suggesting that the buildings in the warehouse district were old oysters and that the galleries were like pearls.
During the 1800s, The Pearl was a neighborhood for blue-collar workers in the timber industry. The area was conveniently situated alongside the rail yards to provide a booming economic hub for the city.
By the 20th century, the timber and railroad industries were declining, and locals began leaving the neighborhood. Today, the Pearl turned from an abandoned and rundown collection of warehouses and buildings to an urban renaissance legend.
What to Do
The Pearl District offers a vibrant metropolitan lifestyle with some of the best dining in the city and ongoing events. Galleries and shops open their doors to the longstanding First Thursdays to browse artwork, indulge in happy hour and sample wines.
Shopping is a favorite pastime around The Pearl with national brands and quirky local shops attracting locals and newcomers. The iconic Powell’s City of Books is among the largest independent bookstores in the country and includes an on-site coffee shop. It’s also a destination for gifts and greeting cards that capture Portland’s independent vibe.
House of Lolo offers stylish women’s clothing with a personalized choice. Recycled Chic Consignments sells gently used clothing and handbags. Big box retailers are also plentiful around The Pearl, including Anthropologie and REI.
Arts and culture in the Pearl District are also an experience to savor. The area is home to the Portland Center Stage at the Armory, Lovejoy Columns and Living Room Theater. Also of note, Blue Sky Gallery focuses on local to international artists in the historic DeSoto Building. Charles A. Hartman Fine Art offers year-round exhibitions in contemporary and modern art.
Where to Eat & Drink
Locals will tell you some of the best dining areas in Portland are found in the Pearl District. Carlita’s was one of the first champions in Mexican dining in the modernized Pearl District. The swanky restaurant rivals Manhattan and features tacos, cocktails and happy hours.
Via Delizia serves fresh pasta and pizzas and morning Italian-style espressos. For dessert, the house-made gelato delights visitors looking for authentic Italian flavors.
On weekends, kids and grown-ups alike indulge in one of the oldest ice cream shops in the area at Cool Moon Ice Cream. The shop attracts visitors trolling through nearby Jameson Park looking for classic and unique flavors like Thai iced tea.
Andina was among the first serving innovative quinoa dishes and flavors from the owners’ hometown in Peru. The Mediterranean Exploration Company is the spot for roasted meat served alongside seasoned potatoes and dates.
For drinks, the Rogue Ales Pearl Public House is among the original brewpubs in the neighborhood. It also boasts a unique history as the state’s first rum distillery in operation since prohibition. Two Wrongs serves cupcakes and craft cocktails in a trendy space with high-end whiskeys and spirits.
Moving to The Pearl District
Real Estate Snapshot
The Pearl District is among the most expensive neighborhoods to live in Portland. Its wealth of amenities, shops and lifestyle locale make it a popular choice among young professionals and urban dwellers. Expect to pay an average of $1,792 on apartments for rent in the Pearl, which is higher than the average $1,484 rent around the rest of the city.
Development around the Pearl District is rapidly expanding. Upcoming projects include a 250-foot residential tower for a combined hotel and apartment complex. As more surface parking gets taken up for more development, locals will need to rely on Lyft, Uber and public transportation options to get in and out of the neighborhood.
The Pearl is a bike-friendly neighborhood with 5 miles of easy-to-ride bike lanes. The Portland Streetcar also connects the Pearl to Northwest Portland, Portland City Center, Central Eastside, Lloyd District, South Waterfront District, and PSU. The TriMet buses also connect from surrounding areas and suburbs to the MAX Light Rail.
The Pearl District is also known as one of the most walkable neighborhoods in Portland with a 97-walk score. It’s easy to stroll through the area and local attractions like Powell’s City of Books and The Fields Park.
Schools & Employment
The Pearl District attracts young professionals climbing their way through their careers. However, it’s also family-friendly with attractions like The Fields Park and Tanner Springs. Families send their children to nearby public schools or choose private options. Portland Community College Downtown Center, Portland State University and Oregon State University are also a short commute.
The Pearl District is a major shopping destination with reclaimed warehouses turned boutiques and galleries. Jobs in retail and the restaurant industry are common, although you’re close to the rest of the city’s job market in high tech, manufacturing, athletics, healthcare and wholesale trade.
The Pearl is also home to businesses in finance, real estate, software and advertising. Beyond The Pearl, you can walk or bike to the hospitality industry in Downtown Portland or commute to the rest of the city by TriMet or Portland Streetcar.
Ready to live in one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Portland? Start exploring the boutiques, restaurants and pubs for the best in urban living in the Pearl District.