Portland's next cool neighborhood?

By Wendy Culverwell

on Jan 17, 2014, 3:00am

I’ve been waiting nearly nine years to pose this question: Is Woodstock Portland’s next hot neighborhood?


With the twin announcements this month that New Seasons Market and Grand Central Bakery will take up residence in the Southeast Portland neighborhood, it could be.

It’s about time.


Full disclosure: I have owned a home in Woodstock since 2005, so my interest isn’t purely academic.


Still, my lovely neighbors have waited a long time for the sun to shine. The tipping point, we figured, was Country Bill’s Restaurant — a treasured throwback with red vinyl seats and a 1964 vibe in the Safeway parking lot. Its closure, the thinking went, would signal a new era for Woodstock.


Country Bill’s did close in 2012, but it wasn’t the tipping point we expected.

The site was redeveloped for medical offices — welcome additions of course, but not exactly the upscale/hipster destinations that compel folks to hop on their bikes for a look-see.


The tide turned in early 2013 when Lisa Sedlar announced plans to install her Green Zebra Grocery concept in Woodstock. Those plans have changed, but Green Zebra is reportedly still intent on opening a store near Southeast 52nd Avenue, just a few blocks east of its original target.


More activity is coming.


Around Thanksgiving, a local real estate agent soliciting listings notified local homeowners that both New Seasons Market and Grand Central Bakery were headed our way.


In New Seasons’ case, word got out when its name cropped up on a building permit.


Grand Central Bakery chose this week to confirm that it will open in September at 4412 S.E. Woodstock Blvd. in a spot currently occupied by a flower shop.


Grand Central President Ben Davis riffed on the wonders of the Woodstock neighborhood in a press release:

“Woodstock has everything we look for,” he said. “The neighborhood has a good little thoroughfare surrounded by houses in all directions, good pedestrian access, an active community. It seems like a natural fit.”


The Grand Central Bakery public relations machine took things even further, suggesting Woodstock is a destination for green-minded businesses.


“With the just-announced New Seasons, along with outposts of Laughing Planet, The Joinery, and Bike Gallery, could Woodstock be an emerging sustainable center in Portland? If nothing else, it will be a great destination for eating well,” it observed.

All the interest is very positive, said Realtor Molly Starr, a Re/Max Equity Group broker who lives in Woodstock and focuses on Southeast Portland.


There’s a lot of excitement, she said, noting that business alone doesn’t persuade buyers. One major draw is Woodstock Elementary’s Mandarin immersion program, especially for families.


Low inventories ensure homes sell fast, and the 97206 section of Woodstock has outperformed Portland in general for price appreciation, with home prices gaining more than 20 percent in 2013, according to the Regional Multiple Listing Service.


Further proof lies in the outsized homes cropping up in spots where small bungalows have been torn down. In that regard, Woodstock doesn’t seem to share Eastmoreland’s distaste for redevelopment. I’ve seen no “Stop the Demolitions” yard signs in my neighborhood.


“When the builders go in, it means there’s demand,” Starr said. “Those homes are selling.” Wendy Culverwell covers real estate, retail and hospitality.

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