Last Hurrah for the Alberta Clown House
I have mixed feelings about the gentrification of Alberta Street. As I’ve mentioned before, I love the idea that the Clown House exists, although admittedly I would be whistling a very different tune if the Clown House were my next-door neighbor. It’s sort of an eyesore; it blasts loud music; and it harbors clowns. But there’s something so wonderfully defiant about that house full of clowns and its yard littered with bikes of every size, shape, and description sitting there as shiny new condos and upscale bars spring up all around it. It’s in a primo location on a double lot, and I can just imagine how galling it must be to all the real estate developers in town to see banjo- and accordion-playing clowns with their pants riding so low you can see their butt cracks in control of that prime piece of real estate.
However, I cannot deny that I patronize many of the newer restaurants and businesses on Alberta, like the yoga studio, Bella Faccia pizza, Buffalo Gardens, and the Tin Shed. They were part of an earlier wave of gentrification that brought funky, affordable, pioneering businesses built up from scratch by local entrepreneurs. And I must admit that I am psyched that Alberta will soon have it’s very own yarn shop, an Indian restaurant (!!!!), and a brew pub. And although I mourned the demise of the semi-scuzzy Chez What, there’s no doubt that Ciao Vito is a vast improvement as far as cuisine and hygiene are concerned. But it’s not affordable, and it attracts a more monied crowd from out of the neighborhood. Sadly, places like Ciao Vito seem to be the gentrification wave of the future. Big developers are moving in for the kill.
What’s to become of some of the businesses on Alberta that were around back before anyone dreamed up the idea of the Alberta Arts District—back when Alberta was just part of the ‘hood? Will the Mr. Jesus Christ storefront church, the Majestic Styling Studio, Earl’s Barber Shop, the Alberta Washhouse, Joes’s Place, Bantu Towing, the Appliance Hospital, and the Don Pancho Taqueria survive? I hope so, but I fear not.
I guess I should dismount my high horse. It’s not like I’m personally doing anything to keep these places around, and it’s not like I’m calling attention to a phenomenon that hasn’t been dissected and passively bemoaned (ad nauseam) in all Portland’s media. There’s even a documentary film about it.
I do hope that Alberta will retain some of its soul (and weirdness and funkiness). I hope there will always be a Last Thursday Art Walk. And I hope that it will always be open (for FREE) to any artist or vendor who wants to set up a table and sell skirts made from neckties, dolls made from pantyhose, or fire up a portable mini grill and sell hot dogs (for $1) that they bought at WinCo.
*Street/District within walking distance of my house that has an increasingly large number of art galleries, funky/chic shops, and restaurants. Famous for its Last Thursday Art Walk.