More Than Just Paul Bunyan’s Statue

Walkable, affordable and diverse, Kenton attracts many families looking to buy their first home.

Portland’s Kenton neighborhood got its start as a company town, developed in the early 1900s by a meat-packing business. A century later, it still holds onto its blue collar roots, but the community — best known today for its
31-foot Paul Bunyan statue — is changing fast.

Jeri Lance, a lifelong Portland resident who moved to the Kenton neighborhood a year ago, says she was drawn by low rent, a large community park, the area schools — and the neighborly feel.

“It’s still working class and diverse, and I appreciate that, because Portland has changed so much,” says Lance, the mother of a 9-year-old boy. “Everybody still says hi. It feels like the original Portland. It’s comfortable.”

The housing market

Moving to Kenton. Metro Parent Portland Oregon October 2014

This three bedroom, 1.5 bath, 1547-square feet house at 2603 N. Hunt Street was for sale at press time for $267,500.

Moving to Kenton. Metro Parent Portland Oregon October 2014

A three bedroom, one bath, updated ranch at 8828 N. Bayard Avenue is for sale for $365,000 in Kenton. It’s got 2,282 square feet.

“A lot of people who used to rent near Belmont or other close-in neighborhoods are finding they have to look elsewhere when they decide to buy,” says Nick Krautter, a principal broker with Keller Williams and publisher of the website. “Kenton is a draw for those first-time homebuyers. It’s still close-in with a walkable downtown, but at an entry-level price point.”

Entry-level properties that sold for less than $200,000 just a few years ago now regularly go for $220,000 to $240,000, Krautter says.

This summer, home sales in Kenton and other nearby North Portland neighborhoods were up 23 percent compared to a year earlier, according to data compiled by the RMLS real estate listing service. About half of homes in the area sold for more than $270,000, half for less.

Local schools

Lance says she was concerned about more than just academic achievement when considering a school for her fourth-grade son. She wanted a seismologically safe building, and a culturally rich learning environment.

Peninsula Elementary fit the bill: About 29 percent of the students there are white, 38 percent are Hispanic and 17 percent are black, according to state figures. More than three quarters of students are deemed “economically disadvantaged” and 30 percent are learning English as a second language. Academic performance is about typical for Oregon grade schools: 64.1 percent of Peninsula students met or exceeded reading standard in 2012-13, compared to 70 percent of students statewide; 66 percent at Peninsula met or exceeded math standards, compared to 62 percent statewide.

The other public grade school that serves Kenton neighborhood children has dramatically different demographics.

Chief Joseph Elementary is 65 percent white, 12 percent Hispanic and 8 percent black. About half of students are economically disadvantaged and 7 percent are English learners. More than 79 percent of Chief Joseph students met or exceeded statewide reading standards, but they fared worse at math, just 61.2 percent meeting or achieving their goals.

Holy Cross Catholic School also serves many Kenton and other north Portland children in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Family fun

Lance describes Kenton as “exceptionally family friendly.” The heart of the neighborhood is its walkable downtown, with stores like Posies Bakery & Cafe — home to a kid-friendly play area. There’s also a Multnomah County library branch, a pizzeria, and Queens Mab children’s clothing store.

Commuter options

“You can’t beat Kenton when it comes to transportation,” Krautter says. “There’s the Max, highway access, bike trails.”

Kenton’s Max station, two stops from the north end of the yellow line, opened in 2004, and now provides a quick trip to downtown Portland for the majority of commuters headed in that direction.

An Interstate 5 on-ramp can whisk northbound travelers to Vancouver in just minutes. Residents can expect delays when driving between downtown and Kenton at rush hour. By crossing the St. Johns Bridge and taking back-roads to Beaverton, commuters to Washington County can avoid some of the worst traffic in the metro area, says Krautter.

Lance, who bikes to her job a few miles to south of Kenton, says bike lanes make her two-wheeled commute quick and safe.

Kenton at a Glance

Population: 7,000

Median home price: $270,000

Family Fun: Friday Farmers Market, Kenton Street Fair (May)

Courtney Sherwood

Courtney Sherwood

Courtney Sherwood is a Portland-based freelance reporter and Reuters correspondent who also works as a fill-in editor at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Formerly business and features editor at The Columbian, her work has appeared in the Seattle Times, Brewer's Guardian, the Portland Mercury, Oregon Business magazine and numerous other publications. In her free time, she paddles competitively on a dragon boat team, and writes and performs for Transporter Malfunction, a Star Trek-themed act.
Courtney Sherwood

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