Oregon Design and Architecture

Lost Vancouver, WA


So, what makes someone a part of a community? I always thought it was the neighborhood you lived in. You shop at the local [or nearby] stores, you go to parks by your home, and you get to know the neighbors and shopkeepers.

But, what about the neighborhood or area where you work – are you considered a part of the community? I’ve always, for the most part, worked in industrial parks or neighborhoods that had no connection to community and were only there for the purpose of Monday – Friday and providing food and goods to nearby office parks. On the occasional weekend day I would go in to work, the business parks would be abandoned. And forget about being able to stop by the deli to pick up a bite to eat.

However, the past few years my job has been in two distinct, bustling and alive neighborhoods in Portland: the Clinton Street area and then in the Belmont/Hawthorne area.

Each offered great options for food, coffee and picking up groceries for dinner. It was weird though. I always felt like I was invading the territory of the people who actually lived in the neighborhood. I felt like an imposter.

But then, it dawned on me that I was there five days a week, all day. I gave back to the community. I even visited on my off days to shop. It was like having two separate lives, one at home and one at work.

Each day I’d also took a break and would walk and explore each neighborhood, enjoying the walk, doing a little house porn watching. The streets around the Hawthorne, Belmont and Clinton were very quiet – most of the homeowners were gone – most likely at their own jobs, in other neighborhoods.

And now I’m working in downtown Vancouver, second exit off of I-5. On my way in, I see glimpses of downtown Portland, the race track, the Expo Center in my rearview mirror, and get to go the speed limit since I’m going against the traffic coming INTO Portland. [I originally checked with Amtrak to see if they offered some sort of commuter deal – ya know, take the bus to the downtown Portland train depot, hop on a train, then walk the mile to work. No dice. ]

But back to the commute. Passing the Expo Center I see the Interstate Bridge looming, knowing I’m close. Two exits later, down Broadway, I’m in a different state and city. Welcome to Vancouver, WA, baby! Home of the original Burgerville! Pump your own gas, bitches! Sales tax! Phone booths on the corner!

But, laugh all you want Portlanders – downtown Vancouver is, well, kind of cool. My only myopic vision of Vancouver was being stuck in horrific traffic in horrific Fishers Landing one time long ago and a vague recollection of that mysterious round senior housing building.

Downtown Vancouver though? Different story. My work takes me to an area called Uptown Village, where its Main Street is bustling.  There’s ample parking. From my work, I can walk to a coffee shop owned by two “twentysomethings” according to the newspaper clipping they have on the wall [they serve a killer Americano – using Stumptown]. There’s a record store – a record store that sells tamales from the back room. Antique stores here and there. A Mexican joint and a bookstore [any bookstore that has an “oddities section” gets a thumbs up].

Truthfully, I have no idea what’s on either end of Main Street – it could be a 100 foot waterfall plunge or end of the earth or an eight-lane expressway. I’m myopic remember?

But that one strip? It rocks.

So, here I am again – a visitor that feels like someone invading. I pick up the Vancouver Voice and read about the local issues or events that take place after 5 pm  or on weekends, chat with the pizza store owner while waiting for a slice, check out the flyers for events [some in the hood, some over in Portland] on the tattoo shop windows, ponder about visiting the local brewpub or wonder what’s up with Governor Gregoire. But, then I split for home, cross the bridge and remember that I can’t pump my own gas.

I plan on doing some hardcore, lunch hour pedestrianism/ flâneurism and veer off to some of the side streets though during the week. Vancouver, you kind of fascinate me.

Paul's on Broadway
Paul's on Broadway

14 replies on “Lost Vancouver, WA”

If you don’t mind the Interstate bridge section of the trip, downtown Vancouver is a nice destination for a bike ride. They have a great farmers market in Esther Short park. Plus, lots of great old homes in the neighborhoods immediately surrounding downtown. Beyond that horizon, it’s sprawl, sprawl, sprawl.

Hey – that’s my neighborhood you’re talkin’ about. Da-Couv and I love it. It’s grown up since I moved here. I used to lament it was only banks and furniture stores but that’s all changed and changing still! Wait ’til you see the new wine bar going in next to Kiggins theater on that lower half of Main should you venture that way.

Just stumbled on this. I live in downtown Vancouver and love it. Moved up from Oakland CA 22 years ago and watched downtown become a very nice place…again. I’ll never live on the east side. West side rules and we don’t have the Portland parking problems.

Thanks for posting Alygal. I don’t work in Vancouver anymore but want to get up there sometime to check out Mt. Tabor Brewery – there’s a cool beer scene blooming in downtown!

I go through downtown Fort Van every day on my way home from work… it’s rather lackluster as anything other than a bus mall. And even as a bus mall, it’s rather fucked up. Either the 105 needs to get with the program and start taking all-zone tickets, or the Yellow Line needs to cross the river.

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