On the surface, Foster-Powell presents a dichotomy: on one hand, a rough-around-the-edges collection of substandard housing, and a dreary and bleak commercial strip that bears its name; on the other, a snapshot of change, with renovated homes, landscaped yards, and businesses that are (have been) growing at an accelerated rate. In the middle, as if concocted in some alchemical experiment, a character has emerged, one that evolves out of diversity, an underdog persona, and a general optimism and pride for place.
Now, to be sure, a lot of our character comes from the odd assortment of tweakers, young families, multi-generational residents, hipsters, squatters, and general working folk. And maybe that’s us in a nutshell. But we know there’s more; and it may be just around the corner.
In a recent Tribune article, this part of the Foster Corridor is described as “…gritty but up-and-coming.” I suppose this has been the case for some time now, but “up and coming” always seemed like a promise. Now, however, some of that promise is being realized.
When we looked back on 2011, we saw a lot of positive developments: money for the streetscape plan, new businesses, murals, community events, a new theater. That’s a lot for one year, and at that accelerated rate, it certainly puts Fo-Po on a certain trajectory. As Nick Sauvie, from ROSE Community Development, stated in the same Tribune article from above, “…this part of Foster is ready to pop.”
But how do we “pop,” so to speak, without losing our character and the qualities that make FoPo unique? This will be the challenge as the face of Foster changes, for better or worse. Just as other neighborhoods around Portland combat gentrification, despite certain forces rapidly ushering it in, so too does Foster-Powell have to keep an eye on what can be lost during changing times. Now, this is not the end of the 13th Baktun, as told by the Mayans, and some monumental shift is upon us. However, it is worth considering what our goals for the neighborhood are. We want coffee shops. But do we want Starbucks? We want the neighborhood to look nice. But do we want homes that are no longer affordable to working class residents and artists? We want mixed-use development along Foster. But do we want to give up parking?
These are all things to consider as we look forward to the future along Foster Road. How can we be agents of change, while also maintaining a certain FoPo aesthetic? I suppose it’s up to us to shape the direction of things to come.