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The History of Portland’s South Waterfront


If you know anything about the South Waterfront, you probably know that it’s becoming one of the most enviable spots in in the Rose City. It’s why we chose it as the the spot for our luxury apartments in Portland! But, it certainly didn’t come to be without years of planning and determination. And, there’s only more to come! The area is still in the midst of one of the largest redevelopment projects in the United States. So, as a homage to the neighborhood we know and love, here is a breakdown of the South Waterfront’s history.

Early Native Americans

It’s believed that the Multnomah tribe occupied the area about 8,000 years ago; however, actual evidence of human societies appears to be from about 1500 B.C. Before European settlement, it’s estimated that 45,000 Chinookan natives utilized rivers and canoes to travel and trade all around Oregon.

(Quick fact: The Tilikum Crossing bridge, which is a 10-minute walk from Osprey’s luxury apartments in Portland is actually in honor of the City’s indigenous people).

The Timber Industry


*Image from Wikipedia

Oregon’s lumber industry was born following the population boom of the early 1800s (sparked by the Lewis and Clark expedition). Official timber trade began in the 1830s and by the 1850s, Oregon was supplying lumber to China, Hawaii, and Australia.

By the 1870s, the timber processed along the Willamette River was Oregon’s primary industry and export. Timber remained a significant trade sector all the way up until the 1980s when the State started to diversify the types of industries it relied upon.

The Zidells and the South Waterfront

The Zidell Family is an important part of the Rose City’s History. We’re quite familiar with their story since our luxury apartments in Portland are just a 5-minute walk from Zidell Yards. In 1911, Sam Zidell emigrated to Oregon from Russia and began life as a barterer. By 1946, the business was shifted to ship-breaking and the Zidells became the largest ship dismantler in the U.S.

During subsequent years, the Zidell business went through several expansions and transformations. It eventually ended up being a player in the barge leasing and construction industry. The Zidells are still very much involved in Portland. Currently, Zidell Yards is part of a $20 million cleanup plan that’s further revitalizing the South Waterfront.


*Image from Think-Portland’s Website.

The end goals are as follows:

  • Containing environmental hazards
  • Improving habitats for fish and wildlife
  • Planting 200 native trees and 15,000 native shrubs
  • Preparing 30 acres of industrial land for mixed-used development

We’re excited to have such an amazing project right next door to our Portland luxury apartments!

Oregon Health & Science University


*Image from Wikipedia

OHSU, as it’s more commonly known, is a public University, that also has two hospitals,with the main campus on Marquam Hill. Initially founded in 1974 in Portland, OHSU’s predecessor, the Willamette University School of Medicine, dates back to the 1860s. OHSU is known for successfully integrating the disciplines of dentistry, medicine, and nursing programs into one educational center. For that reason, in 2001, OHSU expanded to the South Waterfront, where it now employs a ton of the area’s residents.

The Portland Aerial Tram


Shortly after OHSU expanded into the South waterfront, they began a collaboration with Portland’s transportation office to connect the area with the Marquam Hill campus with an aerial tram. The Portland Aerial Tram initially opened in 2006, and just a year later it was commemorated with its one-millionth passenger. While it is owned and operated by OHSU, it is open to the public and operated as part of PDX public transportation network, which includes the Streetcar, the Max Light Rail, and TriMet Busses. All in all, it’s a fantastic way to get down to the South Waterfront while taking in some breathtaking views of the Willamette.

The Major Turning Points 

As we mentioned before, this has been years in the making. The modern Waterfront has become what it is today because of several major events:


The Central City Plan introduces the idea of turning the South Waterfront’s industrial land into an urban mecca. 


The North Macadam Framework Plan is initiated to spark public and private interest in investing in the Waterfront’s renewal. 


The South Waterfront Greenway Plan is approved by the City.



The gorgeous park/recreational spaces of the Green way are completed.


Tilikum Crossing is completed, connecting the South Waterfront to the Central East side 


*Image from Wikipedia


Osprey officially opens the doors to its highly-anticipated Portland luxury apartments

2017 and Beyond

The South Waterfront district continues to expand and improve the economy and lives of Portlanders. The Zidell Yards will be converted to shops, restaurants, offices, parks, and more. It’s expected that by 2020, the South Waterfront will have created 10,000 new jobs!

The South Waterfront District perfectly embodies the drive and inventiveness of Portland. There’s nowhere else we’d rather be!

At Osprey, we’re all about nurturing a community that caters to the wants and needs of residents. What is necessary exists in harmony with what is desired. It’s the bedrock of a philosophy we call “Thoughtful Living”.

With our luxury apartments in Portland, all the fine details are taken care of. For instance, a 24/7 fitness center gets your heart pumping while our welcoming lounge and comfortable courtyards (Central and Eastside Terrace) provide space for relaxing and reenergizing. Also, when residents aren’t out exploring nature and the Greenway, they’re retreating to apartment homes that mix contemporary designs with spacious floor plans, and soothing and warm tones. There are many more Osprey features, but you get the idea; everything – inside and out – is balanced and purposeful.     

Do you want to be a part of the exciting future of Portland? Contact us to learn more about our Portland luxury apartments!

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