The Alberta Arts District, Concordia
The Concordia neighborhood began in 1872 as part of the independent city of Albina. Although Albina became part of Portland in 1891, that spirit of independence still resonates throughout this neighborhood today. The Alberta Arts District resides within the Concordia neighborhood; this commercial stretch runs along Alberta Street from NE 33rd Ave all the way to Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Alberta is a draw for bohemians, hipsters, and couples. This funky refuge began its renaissance in the late 1990s when Pearl District rents moved beyond the reach of the artists and hippies formerly living there. What was once a crime-filled neighborhood with dilapidated residences became a mecca for those seeking funky and artistic digs without the Pearl District price tag. The desirability and prices within Concordia have risen dramatically in the last ten years. The median home price currently falls around $350k, an 80% increase in the last 5 years alone. About 75% of homes are now owner occupied. The massive rise in home values is due in part to the opening of boutiques, restaurants, and amenities both along Alberta Street (the Alberta Arts District) and at NE 33rd Ave and Killingsworth. Within the Alberta Arts District, higher end restaurants prosper next to neighborhood pizza joints and eclectic coffee shops. Alberta redefines alternative as you walk from block to block peeking into ethnic businesses and upscale boutiques alike. It’s considerably less busy than Hawthorne, a similar street in southeast Portland. Ciao Vito, a fantastic Italian trattoria, combines the best of Northwest ingredients to create enticing, rustic fare. Just around the corner, neighborhood favorite Mash Tun Brew Pub pours good beers and cooks up great, inexpensive pub fare. Vita Café on the opposite end of Alberta prepares vegetarian and vegan fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Non-vegetarians can still get bacon or sausage with their corn cakes though. Last Thursday is Alberta’s tongue-in-cheek response to the Pearl District’s First Thursday. If you’re thinking about living here, this event will give you a good flavor for the neighborhood. On the last Thursday of each month, businesses along this stretch of Alberta stay open later and welcome people from around Portland to wander amongst the shops and temporary street booths. Instead of luxury art pieces, one booth might have affordable jewelry and the next will have forgotten junk from someone’s moldy garage. Be prepared to be surprised. The Alberta Art Hop, a neighborhood art festival, is held each May. A number of business owners live in the neighborhood. They’re actively involved in making sure that Concordia’s commercial enterprises prosper. Alberta Cooperative Market, an excellent co-op and natural foods store, is the only grocery store on Alberta St. And, it was the only grocery in this part of town until the revitalization at NE 33rd Ave and Killingsworth. New Seasons Market opened their doors at NE 33rd Ave and Killingsworth in 2001. The outstanding local grocery store anchors a small shopping center that also includes Portland pizza favorite Hot Lips Pizza, Cannon’s Rib Express, and Walgreens. Going grocery shopping on an empty stomach is hard enough in New Seasons, but the smell of delectable BBQ emanating from Cannon’s will likely do in your health goals. The huge portion sizes and delicious food make this unassuming building a hotspot for BBQ aficionados and hungry residents alike. Across the street from the New Seasons shopping center, Concordia Ale House attracts beer lovers from around the metro seeking a tapped keg of hard-to-find favorites. McMenamin’s popular Kennedy School is located a few blocks north along NE 33rd. The school itself closed after the 1974-75 school year. Mike and Brian McMenamin launched their revitalization in spring 1997. The gathering spot opened its doors later that year with the ringing of the old school bell. The property now includes a restaurant, several bars, a movie theater, a soaking pool and hotel rooms. Visitors laugh when they realize that the former detention room has become a cigar-smoking lounge that even survived 2009’s restaurant and bar smoking ban. The former school auditorium serves beer and pizza to moviegoers seeking films just out of mainstream theaters. Homes along the residential streets of Concordia can be hit and miss depending on your prospective. You’re unlikely to find clean, orderly single-family dwellings with manicured lawns here. You will find some “flipped” homes that have been remodeled. And, fixer uppers are still abundant. Numerous homes have converted attics; adding master suites, play rooms, etc. to homes with smaller square footage and not much land to expand on. Walkability is a huge plus; homes closer to Alberta Street are often more expensive than those far away. 27-acre Fernhill Park, located at NE 37th Ave and Ainsworth, includes recreation fields, an off-leash dog area, a horseshoe pit, and walking trails. It is often used as overflow for local schools and teams needing a place to play. Regular bus service runs along Alberta St, NE 33rd Ave, NE 27th Ave, Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, and Killingsworth. It takes about 15 minutes to drive downtown or approximately 20 minutes by bus. Highway 84 is a short drive from here; just head south along NE 33rd Ave. The Portland International Airport is a 15-minute drive.The lively neighborhood bike culture is centered around the Community Cycling Center on Alberta St. Savvy bicyclists map their routes at ByCycle.