This morning the Oregonian reported that city planners intend to assign the title of "Pioneer District" to the area around Pioneer Courthouse Square in downtown Portland. Titles have influence, as those of us who have lived in Portland for years can appreciate when observing newer residents' embrace of the "Pearl District" as the, well, "pearl" of Portland. It's a lovely, revitalized area and I'm glad to see the development and fancy shops, but before it was the "Pearl" it was a rundown, somewhat scary district of often-abandoned warehouses and the Henry Weinhard Brewing Company. The "Interstate" district in North Portland? That was another, similarly blighted area.
The new titles that accompany and sometimes influence revitalization and renewal can be helpful things. I'm cautious when confronted with gentrification, however, because of the unintended consequences of such activities. What happens to the people who were once residents of inner North and Northeast Portland now that we have the trendy Mississippi Ave. and the 'new and improved' Albina District? How do we meet the needs of all the members of our population? Anonymity can breed neglect, but titles can bring some serious problems along with the opportunities they present.