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Humboldt neighborhood finds itself on upswing

Battered by I-5 construction, area around mansion finds its way again

The John Palmer House mansion sits on busy North Mississippi Avenue, amid small businesses and decidedly less grand residences in an area not untouched by urban crime.

According to a Yahoo Real Estate neighborhood profile, residents of the 97217 ZIP code are at more than twice the risk of having a crime committed against their person or property as the average Multnomah County resident.

'This is a tough neighborhood, and we're sitting right in the middle of it,' Roger Goldingay says matter-of-factly.

Despite some rough edges, the mansion's former owners, Richard and Mary Sauter, and new owner, Goldingay, have only good things to say about the Humboldt neighborhood.

The Sauters raised their three children in the Palmer House.

'It was really educational for us and the children,' Richard Sauter says. 'It allowed them to live in a diversified area. They didn't come up with any attitudes that were bad about the neighborhood, because they grew up around it. We never had any problems. We had neighbors who were just so good to us while we were there. Sometimes, they'd see us working on the place and bring us dinner.'

Goldingay, who bought the house last year, says he's enjoying getting to know his neighbors. 'They are a great group of people, really concerned with the area,' he says.

The Humboldt neighborhood was a thriving business district before Interstate 5 was built, bisecting it.

'They tore down all those old, beautiful homes and the (neighborhood) economy was demolished along with it,' Goldingay says. 'It's still recovering from that, and it's been 30 to 40 years. There are some really dedicated, hardworking people here that are determined to put this neighborhood back together.'

One of them is Kurt Haapala, chairman of the Humboldt Neighborhood Association. 'There is a lot going on,' he says. 'I think we are poised for a rebirth.'

An infusion of capital is helping small businesses in the area, and the new light-rail line under construction on nearby Interstate Avenue 'is a lifeline to the city,' Haapala says. 'It's all just happening all at once. There's momentum, and it's exciting to be a part of it.'

Carl Flipper, a longtime Humboldt Neighborhood Association activist and current board member, says, 'Really, it's a vibrant area coming back to life.'

However, he notes, 'Things are up and down' in Humboldt. 'Right now, among our major issues is the uptick in crime. That's taken a lot of our energy recently. People are obviously and understandably concerned about that.'

Haapala and Flipper both are high on the Palmer House.

'It's the gateway to the Humboldt neighborhood and to the south part of the Mississippi historic district,' Flipper says.

Ñ Kristine Kisky