South Portland and the Long Shadow of Urban Renewal
November 7, 2020 – March 27, 2021
This new AHC exhibit examines the rise, fall, redevelopment, and future of South Portland.
In 2020, a section of Portland near the Willamette River and south of downtown was re-designated as the city’s new “South” quadrant, mostly aimed at making it easier for people to navigate the area. This designation alludes back to an era in the first half of the last century when this area and the surrounding neighborhoods were part of the city’s most ethnically diverse community—and commonly referred to as South Portland.
This exhibit looks at the logic and motivations of city leaders, beginning in the 1950s, whose redevelopment efforts focused on the future at the expense of the city’s past and present. These ambitions and impacted residents, businesses, and property owners in one of the city’s most diverse neighborhoods. But it also steered a stagnant, conservative city toward a modernist and meticulously planned aesthetic.
Today, a portion of the former urban renewal area is a National Register Historic District while nearby, what remains of the old neighborhood survived decades of change and is also designated historic. South Portland and the Long Shadow of Urban Renewal shows how new places can eventually become historic, while also shedding light on some present-day aspirations for the city that may transform the area once again.
This exhibit is presented with generous support from the Oregon Heritage Commission and the Cathy Galbraith Educational Endowment.