There’s a reason that Portland calls itself the “city that works,” said James Conaway in National Geographic Traveler. From its bicycle-friendly layout to its widespread recycling ethic, this “verdant, forward-thinking” city has many environmental and urban initiatives that the rest of the country could learn from. Yet although Oregon’s biggest metropolis could be considered a “model for America’s future,” what makes the place so unique is a sense of cooperation and community that at times can seem retro.
Despite being situated in the center of the Pacific Northwest, Portland often feels like a European city—carefully planned and efficiently organized. The work that went into creating this urban experiment began in 1903, when John Charles Olmsted designed a system of open spaces meant to accommodate rapid population growth. The layout also emphasizes Portland’s rich natural assets, such as the Willamette River, which runs through the city. Over the course of the 20th century, the city has made a point of encouraging growth within the metropolitan area, rather than sprawl into the surrounding countryside. “Livability” is “not just a mantra here—it’s a social imperative.” Streets and building plots are small, while sidewalks are broad and parks plentiful, and “environmental sensitivity has become part of Portland’s social fabric.” Then again, it’s easy being green in a city that’s “all about sustainable, low-impact” living.
Eight percent of Portland’s population bikes to work. For the rest of its denizens, a “lovely, Czech-designed” light-rail system conserves fuel, minimizes emissions, and connects the city’s diverse neighborhoods into a “wonderfully cohesive” whole. In the newly gentrified Pearl District, abandoned warehouses have been transformed into stately townhouses. The recently renovated Gerding Theater, a “stunning architectural redesign of concrete, steel, and glass,” features extensive outdoor landscaping irrigated by captured rainwater. Across the river, in Southeast Portland, Hopworks Urban Brewery is the first eco-brewpub to make certified organic beer—and how many other microbreweries use burners fueled with biodiesel or recycle their old kegs into planters for native species of grass and flowers? Contact: Travelportland.com