Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Neighborhood: St. Johns

Our Realtor is back in town and we're picked a few houses to look at on Wednesday. 3 of the 4 are in a Portland neighborhood called St. Johns. Located in North Portland on the tip of the peninsula formed by the confluence of the Willamette River and the Columbia River, St. John's is one of Portland's most forgotten about neighborhoods.

Downtown St. Johns by Werewombat
The neighborhood was settled in the late 1865 and was annexed into Portland in 1915. Since then it's become a primarily working class neighborhood and is one of the few neighborhoods left in the city for affordable housing. Because it's slightly separated from the rest of Portland, it almost feels like a small town and has a little "downtown" area that has seen some reinvestment from the city over the last few years which has allowed both small, independent businesses as well as larger corporations, like Safeway and Starbucks, to move in.

The bridge that connects this area to the downtown area is also arguably the most beautiful bridge in the city.

St. Johns Bridge by Zeb Andrews
St. John's is also home to the University of Portland, a farmers market, two pub theatres in the downtown area, and Cathedral Park.

Cathedral Park by Werewombat
While looking at homes in this neighborhood it's important for us to weight the pros and cons so here they are!

  • Affordable-- most of the houses we are seeing in this area that are well-maintained are between $140,000-$200,000
  • Small town feel that satisfies Tracey's desire to not feel like she's in an urban area but still close enough to the central city that Misha is happy
  • "15 minute neighborhood"-- if you're close enough to downtown St. John's you can get most of your errands and activities done by foot
  • Near an industrial area that was recently designated a redevelopment area, meaning more residential homes and businesses will be built there
  • Most of the homes we are seeing are structurally sound and only in need of cosmetic work. Since we don't want to spend every cent we have rehabing a home and every spare minute working on a project, we can update a house easily which will allow us to sell it in the future and get a better return on our investment.
  • Resell potential may be greater than other areas of town. Houses in this neighborhood are low compared to the rest of the city but are starting to rise as the rest of the city becomes less affordable for working-class and lower middle-class families. 
  • Relatively safe. When we pull up crime maps for the neighborhood, the majority of crimes are for smaller offenses like petty larceny, vandalism, and car break-ins which is much better than assault, burglary, rape or drug offenses. I also like to think that the current economic situation is partially to blame for some of the larceny and not a true reflection of the neighborhood's character. There are also only two registered sex offenders in the whole of the neighborhood which is far lower than other neighborhoods that usually have half-way houses with multiple offenders living in each residence.
  • The close proximity to the University of Portland would allow us to potentially use the house as a rental in the future.
  • Diversity! The neighborhood has a higher percentage of Hispanic and African-American residents than other neighborhoods in the city. We like diversity and want our children to experience it too.
  • Location: It takes anywhere from 10-20 minutes to get to the freeway entrance by car. Going across the St. John's bridge gets you to downtown pretty quickly (12 minutes or so) but to get anywhere else in the city it could take awhile.
  • Car dependency: There is an express bus that runs Monday-Friday from 9am-6pm but other than that it can take awhile to get places on the bus. We would need to keep one car for sure.  
  • Still a bit grungy: There is a wide range of housing styles in the area-- everything from Craftsmans to Bungalows. Most are well maintained but the overall feel of the neighborhood is outdated. This is obviously something that could change in the future as more people begin moving in. 
So, there are obviously more pro's to this neighborhood but two of the con's are kind of big. We could go without a car if absolutely necessary but would be more comfortable having one.  Guess we'll see what the houses look like!

Signal Station Pizza by unknown.

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