A complete history of the Pearl District is still beyond my ability at this time. The Pearl District was an effort, begin more than a decade ago, to revitalize an industrial district next to Downtown Portland, Oregon. The aesthetics and justice of inner city gentrification in general, and the particular machinations behind this particular one being somewhat beyond my scope; so instead I will talk about one piece of the mosaic, Tanner Springs Park.
Tanner Springs Park is a one city block park near the north end of the Pearl District, where the trendy commercial buildings are fading away into the industrial buildings that make up the rest of Northwest Portland. The park is very new, only being completed in 2005. Despite its location in a high density urban area, the park is meant to recreate the area before Portland was developed. The area that downtown Portland is in now, between the West Hills and the Willamette River, was drained by numerous small streams that were piped underground when the area was developed. Tanner Springs allows a small amount of the underground Tanner Stream to bubble up to the surface, and recreates a small amount of meadow and marsh topography in the heart of the city. Like many people, there is something about running water that fascinates me, and although the park is small, I can wander around it in fascination, watching the water bubble out of the ground. For a few dozen feet, and a few minutes, I can imagine that I am far away, although the "wild" effect of the park is far from perfect...there is still park benches and walkways.
Another interesting fact about the park is it is located two blocks away from Jamison Square Park, which is a very similar concept. Jamison Square Park also has a fountain, and a pseudo-beach, but the water is chlorinated and it is often a noisy, crowded, juvenile place to be. Tanner Springs, on the other hand, has softly flowing water and seems to invite contemplation.
Although I am somewhat cynical about The Pearl in general, and wonder why parks such as Tanner Springs only seem to be built in high income neighborhoods, I can't deny that it is a lovely place to visit, natural (or at least natural enough) in the middle of such impersonal artifice.