I've been out of town for a while. Now that I'm back, I see change everywhere. New light rail and construction all over. What gives? Is the economy better? Is everyone moving here because of Portlandia?
I feel you, Local. You go away for five years (actually, with good behavior it was 3½) and when you get back, the old crack house is crack condos, the methadone clinic has a Tumblr, and Comic Sans isn't cool anymore. Just the other day I bought half a cantaloupe at Whole Foods (think about it). Has the world gone mad?
If by "gone mad" you mean "exploded in an orgy of multifamily residential development," the answer is yes. One need only walk down Southeast Division Street to sample the dense agglomeration of high-rise luxury bukkake this real-estate bacchanal has left in its wake.
What did we do to deserve this? Follow the money, chump. You may be gobsmacked to learn—I was—that the average condo price in Portland has risen by 41 percent in the past year. As ECONorthwest's Bob Whelan notes, "This is a very profitable time to be in the apartment business."
Returns like these tend not to be overlooked by Wall Street, and much of the activity in this sector has been driven by "real-estate investment trusts," which are basically big, amorphous piles of self-replicating capital that try to do with real estate what the now-well-known vampire squids of finance did for banking.
Some of the boom can be explained by pent-up demand left over from the recession, but it's also true that 100,000 new residents moved here in the last year. (To be fair, some folks also moved away.)
What's the attraction? Could it really be Portlandia? That'd be like finding out Hogan's Heroes caused a million people to move to Germany, but I suppose anything's possible.
QUESTIONS? Send them to email@example.com