From Railcars To Pedicabs: 1990-Today


There are as many stories surrounding the origin of the name “Pearl District” as there are cobblestones on the neighborhood’s streets. But the most widely accepted version credits Thomas Augustine, an art gallery owner, for coining the tag.

The Pearl’s transformation quickened during the 1990’s. The former rail hub had become a popular destination for entertainment, art, culture and fine dining. It was also becoming an ideal place to live.

Key to its transformation was the development of several upscale mixed-use housing projects. The first was in 1994, when HOYT acquired the 34-acre Burlington Northern railyard. With great vision, HOYT began a massive $600 million urban redevelopment project. So ambitious was the undertaking that former Mayor Vera Katz auspiciously referred to the project as “Portland’s next great neighborhood.”

Today, a dozen high-rise residential developments rise as testament to HOYTs’ vision and boldness. Bikes share road space with pedicabs, and Portland’s most walkable neighborhood is also one of its most popular. True to its name, the Pearl has become one of Portland’s most prized jewels.