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CityLab
Economy

Portland's Next Density Spurt

Flashy new residential projects near the Burnside Bridge suggest the expansion of the Rose City's urban core has leaped across the Willamette River.
Density has spread from downtown over the Willamette River, giving residents of new projects like Yard new views of the city.
Density has spread from downtown over the Willamette River, giving residents of new projects like Yard new views of the city.Stephen A. Miller

It’s a rainy Friday afternoon at the east edge of Portland’s Burnside Bridge, where commuter traffic is inching from downtown across the Willamette River. But five floors above at the spa inside the new Yard apartment tower, bathers in a warm soaking pool look through floor-to-ceiling glass walls at the clogged bridge and a panoramic view of the downtown Portland skyline.

The 21-story Yard and the adjacent new Slate and Fair-Haired Dumbbell buildings that comprise this Burnside Bridgehead development indicate that the high-density expansion over the past two decades of Portland’s central city has leaped across the river. There are measures of success, like Yard’s recent sale to a Thai company for $126 million. But there’s also a noticeable public hostility: To many, Burnside Bridgehead represents an act of gentrification in a city quickly losing its affordability.