As recently as 2010, Portland’s South Waterfront neighborhood, located in the intersection of the Willamette River and Downtown PDX, was essentially empty – populated by undeveloped lots and mostly unused buildings.
When the neighborhood was first slated for growth, Portland’s Office of Planning and Sustainability offered this “Vision for 2035”: “…a dense, vibrant, walkable, distinctly urban mixed-use community, with market rate and affordable housing options and excellent access to transit, parks and neighborhood amenities…”
The Growth of Portland’s South Waterfront Neighborhood
In the past few years (especially since 2015 with the opening of the Tilikum Crossing, Portland’s newest bridge built to service the MAX Orange Line along with pedestrians or bicyclists) this urban neighborhood has begun to grow at a rapid pace and is attracting a varied mix of folks including young professionals, retired folks, OHSU medical students and doctors, and more. With an average resident age of 47, this newish area is not yet attracting as many young families with children as the more established neighborhoods but that doesn’t mean it lacks high energy. 52% of this small neighborhood’s population (just under 4k) are homeowners – mainly living in the high-rise condo buildings and new apartment buildings now populating the area.
While the district continues to grow toward the original vision and now contains not only residences but numerous busy restaurants, grocery, retail, and service businesses, the goal to include affordable housing has proved to be a difficult one for the city to deliver on. The neighborhood is indeed fast becoming ‘dense and vibrant’ and is certainly ‘walkable’ but it is also already one of the more expensive for real estate in the Portland area.
Even so, South Waterfront residents seem to be willing to pay the premium and love their ever-changing neighborhood noting the great public transit and safe, clean streets. One resident noted, “It’s still in progress, but this is turning into a gorgeous neighborhood.”
Sean Becker, principal real estate broker at Sean Z. Becker Real Estate, serves the entire Portland area but specializes in high-end South Waterfront real estate. He enjoys the area so much he even parked his office there and has this to say about the district: “Portland is a city of great neighborhoods, and South Waterfront is just another great neighborhood in a city full of them. For all the talk about South Waterfront being an “up and coming” neighborhood, the truth is that it is a great neighborhood right NOW. There are thousands of people who live, work, and play here daily, making for a very vibrant neighborhood. Our first-hand experience selling homes in South Waterfront since 2004, is that people who seek out South Waterfront do so for very specific reasons – the homes are beautiful and among the nicest condominiums in the city, and the neighborhood enjoys stunning views combined with a very peaceful and serene setting.”
South Waterfront Real Estate
Sean’s website currently lists a range of available properties starting at around $300,000 for a 631 square-foot furnished studio, one-bathroom with river, mountain, and city views, deeded parking, rooftop deck, 24/7 concierge, and a 2-acre park below. and careening all the way up to multiple property listings in the $1.5 million dollar range for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom, two-terrace penthouse condo with sweeping views and loads of amenities. Sean also notes the average price for property in the South Waterfront area lands at around $740,000 – a whopping $468+ per square foot.
South Waterfront Neighborhood Lifestyle
Offering the best of two distinct worlds, the South Waterfront combines an urban, energized environment with immediate access to the beautiful natural views and surrounds of the Willamette River, including the expansive South Waterfront Greenway – a linear park and walking and biking trail along the riverfront. Still under development in some areas, the greenway includes breathtaking natural views, green spaces, and public art installations.
At the end of the greenway is the idyllic little South Waterfront Park: With restful ponds complete with lily pads, this oasis of peace and quiet in the busy city is touted by neighbors as one of the best newer parks in PDX.
The South Waterfront district is also served by numerous public transit options, allowing residents to not only enjoy their bustling immediate surrounds but to easily visit neighboring areas, giving South Waterfront residents a wide reach. Connected to the Central Eastside via the ‘Bridge of the People’ Tilikum Crossing, the South Waterfront is also served by the Portland Streetcar which connects riders to Northwest Portland and the Pearl District through Downtown and Portland State University. The Aerial Tram, and the MAX Orange Line are additional local transportation options. These transit options give easy access to amenities like Oregon Museum of Science and Industry on the Eastside, and all that NW and Central Downtown PDX have to offer.
Although the South Waterfront Walk Score currently hovers around 50 out of the possible 100 – this is quickly changing as more businesses are drawn to the area. With average commute times to Downtown Portland ranging from just 5 minutes by car, about 13 minutes by Streetcar, 8 minutes by bike, and 30 minutes on foot this neighborhood is perfectly poised for growth.
Schools in Portland’s South Waterfront Neighborhood
There are a few local options for families with children in this neighborhood, although all of them are non-traditional as there are no Portland Public Schools campuses in the district. Local schools include The Cottonwood School (K-8, Public Charter), The International School (Preschool-5, Private, Fully immersive Spanish, Japanese or Chinese) Sunstone Montessori School (Preschool-6, Private), and of course, a number of higher education campuses with some of OHSU’s schools in the area.
While Portland’s South Waterfront is a work-in-progress, it’s on the tipping point toward a bustling neighborhood with all of the amenities of a more established but still relatively new neighborhood like The Pearl District. It’ll be both exciting and interesting watch this area develop and mature.
If you’re ready to start the home-buying process (in the South Waterfront area or any other Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington neighborhood) I’d love to help. Give me a call to discuss the numbers. Or start your mortgage prequalification process now via this online form.