Walk This Way

Pearl District Boardwalk

A guide to the Pearl’s boardwalk empire

Pearl Boardwalk Mapboardwalk evokes many experiences. Walking hand-in-hand in the fade of dusk. Children playing chase, mouths sticky from funnel cakes. The bump, bump, bump of bicycle tires on sunbleached boards.

And these experiences are almost antithetical to the Pearl District of the late ’90s. At that time, old railroad yards and abandoned warehouses were the neighborhood hallmarks. None of the slick condos you see today. There was barely a housing or rental market at all. But the City of Portland and Hoyt Street Properties thought the industrial landscape had a lot of potential.

“We wanted to add parks, housing, streetcars—to really make it a thriving urban community,” says Tiffany Sweitzer, president of Hoyt Street Properties.
“It was a risky venture, but Hoyt Street and the city took a chance on each other and embarked upon a partnership to redevelop the neighborhood.”

They worked with neighborhood proponents and visionary landscape architect Peter Walker to build three city parks, Jamison, Tanner Springs, and The Fields. To create a sense of cohesiveness among them, Walker proposed a connecting boardwalk on bustling NW 10th Avenue. Today you can stroll that extra-wide six-block promenade, the legacy of this game-changing collaboration.

Here are some boardwalk highlights: Going south to north, the boardwalk starts at Jamison Park, which centers around a striking water feature reminiscent of a shallow tidal pool. Water cascades from stone features and delights families in summer. Look out for the park art: a red granite bear by Mauricio Saldaña and the whimsical “tiki totems” by Kenny Scharf. After Jamison, you’ll pass Fjallraven outdoor apparel, and Perch, which specializes in luxurious US-made hand-built custom furniture.

As you go, stop for sushi at Yama, or pick up a perfectly flaky mushroom gruyère Danish at Lovejoy Bakery. Down the way, Barre 3 classes guide you through deep muscle burn. The next park is Tanner Springs, a mini nature retreat that harks to the area’s pre-industry native wetlands. On the east edge of the park runs the Artwall, 368 repurposed railroad ties that showcase hand-painted images of dragonflies, spiders, amphibians, and insects within fused glass by artist Herbert Dreiseitl.

Across the street, you can let your tension melt away in a luxurious state-of-the-art flotation tank at Enso Float. Or grab some traditional Catalan food at Can Font. The boardwalk ends at The Fields Park, where frisbee players and lollygaggers take full advantage of the one-acre lawn area.–Ellee Thalheimer