Friday, June 15, 2007

What Portland COULD Look Like...

...if our state and local governments were like those in much of the rest of the country, is graphically detailed in this photo essay of downtown Gary, Indiana. I'll pull a couple of the best ones to reprint here:

[that's Gary's Union Station. And you thought ours looked a little hobo-ish!]

[...guess the urban renewal district expired on that block.]

[if you can believe it, this is the REHABBED section of town. But according to the blogger, not a single business is open along that strip. Not one.]

[the bustling crossroads of Gary, gateway to oblivion.]

Gary is basically the southernmost point of the Chicagoland area, and as such you'd think it might conceivably become a useful exurb, where folks might go to escape the high prices of the central city. It used to be a full-fledged standalone city, relying on steel mills to provide lots of solid blue-collar jobs. Obviously, the withdrawal of those mills has left a nasty shell behind, and the city has been unable to truly recover.

You can't directly compare the two cities; while Oregon also abruptly lost its major 20th century industry niche (timber in our case), the effect on Portland was essentially an indirect one. Gary appears to have been hit squarely in the jaw when Big Steel left town. Further, Portland is THE city of Oregon, whereas Gary is an afterthought next to Chicago. Still, it's absolutely true that 35 years ago Portland's central city didn't look tremendously different in places, particularly along Harbor Drive and in the Pearl. The difference is that Portland's leaders of the day didn't throw up their hands and just let the decay continue apace--they rolled up their sleeves and pretty much saved the city, because they believed it could and SHOULD be saved.

Don't ever take our city's health and beauty for granted. I bet Gary would take our homeless population gladly, if they could have the rest of what we have along with it.

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