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Portland’s Apartment Boom Has Created New, Walkable Neighborhoods

Portland is a better place to walk than it was five years ago.

On a rainy night aboard the No. 15 bus last winter, I got a feeling I hadn't experienced in Portland for more than a decade: I was lost.

It's the most welcome side effect of Portland's construction boom. Glance up from your phone, and you're in a neighborhood you've never seen before. With every new apartment tower comes a new streetscape next to it—with luck, it includes an alleyway and a staircase to a nook and a noodle shop.

It's happening across the city. A hanging garden perches above Sullivan's Gulch. A food cart marketplace is tucked beneath a brewpub in Lents. On Slabtown land that once belonged to trucking titan Con-Way, you can eat soup dumplings in wooden chairs along a three-block promenade reserved for joggers and cyclists.

The criticism applied to this city's wave of new rental buildings is that they are blocky, beige and indistinguishable from each other. That's largely true. But as these towers open and their ground-floor retail spaces fill, it's becoming clear how many new paths and courtyards they have added to the walking environment.

Everybody complains about Yard, the Borg spacecraft hovering above the east end of the Burnside Bridge. Nobody talks about the new stairwell district beneath—a cove under the bridgehead now filling with bars and spas, that looks like the set of Blade Runner 2049.

There's a useful debate to be had about whether so much civic infrastructure should be the domain of developers. But this much is inarguable: Portland is a better place to walk than it was five years ago. And that's because of the new apartments.

1. Because we're creating new neighborhoods…

2. Because we made voting even easier… 

3. Because a doomed building is now a temporary work of art… 

4. Because we're still No. 1 in semi-factual superlatives… 

5. Because you can finally get a beer for less than $10 at Moda Center… 

6. Because our news anchors don't take crap from internet trolls… 

7. Because University of Portland continues to turn out some of the best women's soccer players in the world… 

8. Because we are the champions of cyclocross…

9. … and roller derby… 

10. … and air guitar…

11. Because we're turning wastewater into beer…

12. … and beer into exercise…

13. Because a local punk legend is holding a permanent rummage sale in the basement of a record shop…

14. Because we let you stop and smell the weed…

15. Because we're a world hub for slap-tagging…

16. Because even Texans are impressed by our barbecue… 

17. … and you can get almost any style of pizza here… 

18. … and also, we've perfected the soy curl… 

19. Because we're dedicated to keeping our strippers healthy and limber…

20. Because our gynecologists are building a better speculum…

21. Because our airport keeps getting more awesome…

22. …and so does Movie Madness…

23. Because we're making Halloweens more inclusive…

24. Because the city's most daring developer is growing strawberry fields in the sky…

25. Because we're bringing the pay phone back, minus the "pay" part…

26. Because you can turn on the TV and see your neighbor compete in an eating contest against a bear…

27. Because hardcore foosball players finally have a home…

28. Because we're home to the largest astrology school in the United States… 

29. Because this is the best place in the country to be a witch… 

30. Because we believe no kitty should be left behind…

31. Because the barred owls are taking over…

32. Because the best Trail Blazer in history is playing in front of us…