St. Johns & University Park
St. Johns is an outlying North Portland neighborhood situated on the peninsula where the Willamette and Columbia Rivers meet. Its colorful history begins with the tale of early Portland settler, James John. Supposedly, John was a recluse and town residents playfully nicknamed him “Saint John.” (Another story claims that he got the name because he wouldn’t visit the local brothel.) We do know that John laid out the first street grid here in 1865. Similar to Albina, St. Johns was initially an independent city until it was annexed by Portland in 1915. The stunning St. Johns Bridge is one of the most beautiful in Portland (if not the world) and it’s often compared to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. The public works project to build the St. John’s Bridge began just one month before the stock market crash of 1929. This project sustained many area residents through the tough times ahead. On St. Patrick’s Day 1931, local officials announced that the suspension bridge was to be painted green. And it’s still green to this day. This landmark was dedicated and opened in 1931, coming in $1 million under budget and built in a mere 21 months. The St. Johns neighborhood is a small town in and of itself, separate from busy Portland and yet similar in spirit. The main commercial district revolves around the intersection of North Lombard Street and Philadelphia Avenue. Residents could easily conduct their lives (and business) here without leaving the confines of St Johns. The enclave includes shops, restaurants, doctors offices, and even it’s own post office. Ladybug Coffee draws locals in with their yummy pastries, organic coffee, and superb atmosphere for relaxing or studying. Locals claim that Tulip Pastries bakes the best donuts in Portland. (The shop advertises their angel food donuts as a specialty.) And, St. Johns’s first ever farmers market opened in July 2009. Multnomah County Library’s St. Johns branch can be found on N. Charleston Ave. The Southern Colonial library building was a gift from Andrew Carnegie. This branch was opened in 1913 and was renovated in 2000. The median St. Johns home price is just over $200,000, making this one of the most affordable yet livable areas of Portland. Prevalent home types include ranches, Cape Cods, and small cottages. St. Johns’s elementary and middle schools are rated as satisfactory by the Oregon Department of Education. Roosevelt High School is the main high school for St. Johns, Cathedral Park, and University Park.This area boasts over 2,000 acres of natural areas and parks. 87-acre Pier Park was acquired by the city of Portland in 1920 and named after an early Portland city commissioner, Stanhope Pier. In addition to picnic areas, recreation fields, and many paved paths, this park also contains an 11,000 square foot skatepark, a wading pool, and disc golf. Even when residents pour into the park for an afternoon of summer enjoyment, there’s plenty of space for everyone. Bicyclists and hikers enjoy wildlife sightings and pleasant unpaved paths amongst the thousands of acres in Smith and Bybee’s Natural Wetlands. This area is one of the largest freshwater urban wetlands in the United States. Kelley Point Park draws area residents to its beautiful 100 acres; a 40-mile loop means the casual hiker is never bored and its prime riverfront location enables visitors to watch passing ships. The Cathedral Park neighborhood borders St. Johns and University Park. It earned its name from its close proximity to the striking “cathedral-like” view below St Johns Bridge. (Technically, the bridge is in Cathedral Park and not St. Johns.) Home types, prices, schools, and atmosphere are pretty much identical to neighboring St. Johns. Cathedral Park residents also frequent St Johns eateries, shops, and amenities. University Park is a mainly residential neighborhood to the south of St. Johns and north of Portland’s Overlook community. This neighborhood was named after a Methodist university that existed here in the late 1800s. In the early 20th century, the university property was bought by the Catholic Church and eventually became the present-day University of Portland. The four-year, Catholic university now educates about 3500 students. Approximately 1500 students and faculty live in on-campus housing. The school itself sits on a bluff above the Willamette River. Plans are in the works to purchase 35 acres of land in the Triangle Park area so that the university can expand. One unique feature of University Park is its street configuration. In order to get the maximum amount of sunlight, streets were laid out northwest to southwest and northeast to southeast. The median home price is a bit higher than St. John’s; currently it’s about $280,000. University Park has seen home prices grow over 50% in the last five years. Students here attend many of the same elementary and middle schools as kids in St. Johns. Astor Elementary School (which does not serve St. Johns) is rated as exceptional by the Oregon Department of Education. And, Astor is thought to be one of the best schools in North Portland (if not the city).University Park’s outstanding Community Center was built in the early 1940s as part of a huge federal project preparing ship workers for World War II. The center was renovated in 2007 and locals utilize this open, airy space’s gym, basketball courts and meeting rooms. TriMet buses service St. Johns, Cathedral Park, and University Park. MAX’s Yellow Line extends into the nearby Overlook neighborhood. So, the people of St. Johns, Cathedral Park, and University Park need to take at least one or more buses to access it. It’s about a 20 minute drive to downtown Portland. Homebuyers also choose these areas for the 30-minute commute to Beaverton or Hillsboro via Germantown Road.