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Portland: A Rose By Any Other Name

Every real estate developer and urban planner knows that Portland, Oregon rocks.

It is probably our best civic example in the United States of defining a comprehensive growth strategy for its citizens and staying true to the vision.  The result is an authentic, creative, smart, home grown, artsy, sustainable, eco-friendly, colorful, self sufficient, vibrant, athletic, outdoorsy, walking, biking, multi-generational and experimental lifestyle downtown community where buildings, transit, waterfront festivals, park blocks, fountains, theaters, bookstores, galleries, music, crafts, food, wine, beer, coffee and people all blend together perfectly.  It really works here. But one thing was never done properly and needs to be changed to capture this spirit – the name of the city. 

Rick Abelson | August 11, 2009, 11pm PDT
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Every real estate developer and urban planner knows that Portland, Oregon rocks.

It is probably our best civic example in the United States of defining a comprehensive growth strategy for its citizens and staying true to the vision.  The result is an authentic, creative, smart, home grown, artsy, sustainable, eco-friendly, colorful, self sufficient, vibrant, athletic, outdoorsy, walking, biking, multi-generational and experimental lifestyle downtown community where buildings, transit, waterfront festivals, park blocks, fountains, theaters, bookstores, galleries, music, crafts, food, wine, beer, coffee and people all blend together perfectly.  It really works here. But one thing was never done properly and needs to be changed to capture this spirit – the name of the city. 

Portland.  How dull.  

Decided by a coin toss in 1845, the city's founding fathers, Lovejoy and Pettygrove, agreed to name this new city after the winner's respective home town. Their surroundings didn't seem to influence them. Not the aromatic rhododendrons, crystal water, majestic snow capped mountains, abundant Willamette River salmon and ever presents rain. On the final flip, Pettygrove gave his distinctive Maine smile. Portland won over Boston.  

Through the generations, colloquial taglines have been added - the City of Roses, Bridgetown, P-Town, PDX, Rip City and Stump Town. Yet, none seem to pick up the essence of what makes this city so special and why the world has embraced it. 

But surely, Portlanders understand that the brand is often the name itself. This is the home of Nike.  So why doesn't Portland step up and solve its identity crisis like other well known cities. Mumbai (Bombay), Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Beijing (Peking), Jakarta (Batavia) all decided to rewrite their history. 

Renaming Portland would be an event. A very Oregonian approach.   

The new name should ensure consensus comes easily. Something forward looking - and timeless. A name for not only the 21st century, but the 22nd century as well.  

When author Ernest Callenbach wrote his 1975 cult novel, Ecotopia about a northwest sustainable society, it seems strange how relevant certain passages have become. Today, Portland continues to inspire the world. What it still needs is a name that captures this reality, encourages people to visit and inspires them to learn, grow and thrive. 

Please send comments or new names for Portland to help this great city explore its true brand essence.   

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