February 13, 2007
I had to walk from work to go pick up my TT at Matrix, where I was having my A/C bearings dealt with (plus a new battery; I’m preparing for a Significant Road Trip). This hike routed me all the way through the new South Waterfront chaos and the scale of it kind of knocked me off my feet even though I thought I had understood before.
Pedestrian access between the Riverside area and South Waterfront is poor to fair; I think they are expecting folks to take the trolley; or perhaps they didn’t think about it at all. One has to traverse a completely dead zone between the Marquam and Ross Island Bridges, a terrain of filthy industrial riverside sites, crumbling asphalt sidewalks and mud patches with puddles. Because of this apocalyptic buffer zone, the actual siting of the South Waterfront explosion seems arbitrary. They are building a city from nothing, cheek and jowl with heavy industrial.
However, the entire walk was made by being able to get close to the frankly awesome aerial tram station adjacent to the new OHSU building. It’s all gears and shiny metal stuff. Add to the fact that the tram car looks like a chromed grape on a lever, and you have my love, even if I don’t want to give it. I just don’t want to pay $4 for the honor of a ride. But I’m crumbling.
The building sites (for out-of-towners’ reference, there are about half a dozen quite tall, quite expensive condo buildings, skyscrapers really, under construction, simultaneously) remind me of Berlin, perhaps it’s just the (close, foggy, cool) weather that is similar to my last visit to the German city. But it’s also the freakish amount of construction in a formerly dead zone. For them, they’re building where the Wall was, for us, we’re trying to ignore that the rest of the area is highly-polluted and grim. Perhaps its this hearkening to Berlin that gives me an overwhelmingly European hit, perhaps it’s the (Swiss) aerial tram. All that’s actually happening there is that cars are driving in and out of an apparently underground parking area and the dull echo of hammers across acres of silent space. One would think hammers would be obsolete by now.
All in all, the area seems clever more than natural. Transit choices go for cute over useful: the rickety, adorable trolley or the unaffordable tram that only goes to the hospital on the hill. The infrastructure isn’t exactly there yet–literal skyscrapers brush up against filthy, abandoned warehouses and gas stations. Even though the throngs haven’t moved in yet, it already feels homogenous to me. The building colors run a short gamut from beige to soft blue and I can already pick out the elements that will look dated in a decade.
I’m not saying the whole thing is dreadful, just odd. What are your guys’ initial impressions?