February 22nd, 2016

Portland Timbers

To this Portlander, this feels right.

Huh: I have been a Portland resident long enough to miss things. As have a lot of us: Portland's having growing pains, and a lot of development in places we didn't think would get redeveloped. A well-known Hawthorne Blvd. bar even I've been to, Sewick's Lounge — known as Sewickley's Addition when I moved to near it in 2001, and which people pronounced "Sewickity's" for some reason, AND a place where one time the already-infamous Tonya Harding jumped behind the bar to start mixing drinks — is another high-profile place scheduled to be knocked down and replaced with mixed-use development featuring apartments. (I'd wondered recently whether the building's long-closed Sewickley's Home Plate Diner was going to reopen. I GUESS I HAVE THAT ANSWER NOW.) Another such building's going up at SE 50th and Division, next to Landmark Saloon; when I asked one of the Landmark workers exactly what it was, he said "What do you think?" Portlandia probably shouldn't do a sketch about new mixed-use buildings in Portland; that'd rub salt in wounds.

I and others in Portland are having angst about both losing neat places, and the risk of being priced out of what's left. It's nowhere near the nightmare a place like the San Francisco Bay Area currently has; but we still worry, probably irrationally, about whether we'd get to the same nightmare. Meanwhile, for several reasons, we're still losing stuff. Now I'm thinking of The Red Coach, a downtown restaurant from the 1960s to a few years ago — new owners did a hell of a job reviving it, I thought, when they made it into a burger bar called All Way. I went there a lot last year, and felt I was getting at least a taste of what people had loved about Red Coach. But then All Way closed, too. Shoot. Not for rent or redevelopment, so this is a different angst, but: a cool place, not there anymore.

Backspace ain't there anymore for rent-related reasons; it's another place I miss. It was a spacious and welcoming restaurant, bar, computer lounge, and art/performance space in Old Town, and it closed in 2013. That hit extra hard because we'd fought for it; I and others backed a fundraiser in 2012 to help the place out of a financial hole. The owners tried to move Backspace to East Portland; that hasn't happened yet. So it likely won't.

There's still a small victory, though. The Backspace rooms, empty for two-and-a-half years, will soon be home to an expanded Ground Kontrol, the retro-futuristic video arcade around the corner. Ground Kontrol is a good place, and is doing well, and is making sure it's not going anywhere. And thus, a neat piece of Portland is going to be neater. I was moved to tweet to Ground Kontrol, "Do the Backspace space proud."

We can't have everything we love(d) about Portland, but we can have this.