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COURTESY: PORTLAND BUSINESS ALLIANCE - Stubborn Stiles is one of four holiday pop-up shops this year, all located in Old Town/Chinatown and open through Christmas eve. It’s been an auspicious year for downtown Portland, with the addition of more than 40 new restaurants and shops and unprecedented growth in Old Town/Chinatown.


In fact, Old Town/Chinatown saw more development this year than in the previous 10 years combined, according to Lisa Frisch, downtown retail program director of the Portland Business Alliance.

Both districts are about to put the cherry on top with the launch of their holiday season retail promotions this week, including pop-up shops, free parking days, yarn-bombing and other events.

Old Town will be in the spotlight as the home of four PDX Pop-Up Shops, unveiled by Mayor Charlie Hales and other city and business leaders on Tuesday.

Hales kicked off the event wearing an “ugly sweater” to match with the “Allow Me” umbrella man statue at Pioneer Square, lauding the recent progress in downtown and Old Town.

Last year, much of the district’s growth included national chains moving in. This year most of new faces are small, local food purveyors looking for space in the dense city core.

Newbies include Pieology and Chizu (opened in March); Shift Drinks (opened in May); Lechon (opened in August); Kure Juice Bar and Sizzle Pie (opened in September); and High Noon (opened in October).

Another handful are slated to open in downtown soon, including Bamboo Izakaya, Garden Bar, Sensei Sushi and Tusk Restaurant.

There are four pop-up shops this year: Stubborn Stiles, Folk, Draplin Design Co. and Omiyage.

Three occupy the two-story Boxer Northwest Building, 438 N.W. Broadway Ave., a former warehouse across from the new Pacifi c Northwest College of Art location.

It’s vacant space the Portland Business Alliance is looking to activate and rent. The property owner, Harsch Investment Properties, has donated the future redevelopment site, and the Portland Business Alliance charges $1 for the 60-day lease.

“It would be a great future site for someone interested in showcasing some of the creatives in the neighborhood,” Frisch says. The fourth pop-up shop, Omiyage, 341 N.W. Fifth Ave., is a Japanese gift shop hosted by the nonprofit Oregon Nikkei Endowment.

All proceeds support their vendors and artists, as well as the organization’s programming and events.

COURTESY: PORTLAND BUSINESS ALLIANCE  - Draplin Design Co. is another PDX pop-up shop, aimed at showcasing local vendors while activating vacant retail space for future development. The two locations are 428 N.W. Broadway St. (Draplin Design, Stubborn Stiles and Folk); and 41 N.W. 5th Ave. (Omiyage). “There’s a lot of change happening, in a good way,” says Lynn Longfellow, executive director. “This part of town is challenged because there are so many entities trying to coexist. They don’t necessarily complement each other.”

With the recent development, she says, “there’s a lot of new vitality. ... I think good things are finally happening here. Between the city and the people who live and work here, we’re all trying to work together to move forward.”

The Oregon Nikkei Endowment has outgrown its space in Old Town, Longfellow says, but is looking for expanded space in Old Town, to launch a cultural and community center anchored by its existing programs. “We want to invite partners and have shared space with other communities” that once called Old Town home, Longfellow says, to brand Old Town as a cultural and heritage district.

Owned by Clark/Kjos Architects, the Omiyage space is marketed as office space but could be a prime retail spot, with large windows, on the MAX line, surrounded by creative companies, Frisch says. “We hope to begin utilizing it as retail in the future.”

The location has been vacant for a while, but a tenant has recently shown interest in the space.

“We showcase vacancies to help spur interest in future tenants,” Frisch says. The space used last year to house the three Old Town pop-up shops, 11 N.W. Fifth Ave., has now been leased.

The pop-up shop Folk is brand new to the world, launching its website this week to sell made-in-Portland furniture, lighting and goods.

“Folk is offically three days old,” says owner/founder Richard Koehler. “The location is going to be fun ... we just hope people get to know us a little bit.”

Koehler says he’d love to open a permanent Portland location at some point if things go well; the pop-up shop will be the perfect trial run.

“For a startup, an opportunity like this is priceless,” he says.

New in Old Town

Other recent movement in Old Town has included the opening of the Society Hotel at Northwest Third Avenue and Davis Street; the upcoming opening of PNCA’s new location; and the Grove Hotel’s groundbreaking in December.

Just last week, the University of Oregon announced its purchase of the White Stag Building in Old Town, signaling plans to put down permanent roots.

Another major development that will surely bring more foot traffic to Old Town is the impending opening of Pine Street Market, the food hall that will soon occupy a renovated historic building at Southwest Second and Pine Street.

COURTESY: PORTLAND BUSINESS ALLIANCE  - Downtown's otter statues looked positively dapper last year in these vintage yarn-bombed sweaters. The statues get new duds this season to keep holiday shoppers smiling. To give potential investors the lay of the land, the PBA is planning an open house for real estate brokers next month to talk about the vibrancy in the neighborhood.

“There’s always people willing to take a chance,” Frisch says. “All of the other real estate businesses see what’s going on and want to get in on the action.”

On social media channels, the PBA will release videos of Sasquatch coming to downtown Portland to do his holiday shopping.

And yarn bombing will return, as local fiber artists knit custom duds for downtown’s many statues.

This year it’ll include otters dressed as Christmas trees, deer dressed as elves and the “naked lady” statue wearing something to represent marriage equality.

“We try to represent Portland,” Frisch says, “with fun things people can really rally around.”

@jenmomanderson

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