Alberta Arts District

Your Guide
Rachel Hill, ASLA

Alberta Street (otherwise known as just Alberta) began in 1903 as a vibrant commercial district. A streetcar connected the neighborhood to downtown. The people that built Alberta were working-class business owners who often lived above their stores. This mix of residences and businesses rooted in the pedestrian realm set the infrastructural bones for the street it is today.

A major flood in 1948 and then urban renewal projects in the 1960s displaced poorer populations around the city, causing the consolidation of poverty in neighborhoods around Alberta. The streetcar stopped running in 1948, and then Interstate 5 was built, severing traffic to the neighborhood. Alberta further declined. 

Community organizations, non-profits, and public agencies banded together. They established programs to focus on low-income housing, crime, and economic development. In 1996, citizens identified obstacles and opportunities, focusing in on the creation of the Alberta Arts District. The first art walk was held in 1997. Today, Alberta’s “last Thursday” street fair creates a frenzy of summer activity at the end of each month. The annual Alberta Street Fair attracts more than 20,000 people.

The Alberta business district, like many areas in NE Portland, wrestles with the outcomes of this amazing story of revitalization. The community has created a vibrant district filled with strong local businesses. But gentrification is rapidly transforming the neighborhoods surrounding Alberta. The ethnic diversity on which the revival was built is now mostly reflected in the murals and art commemorating the past.

Moving forward, a broader strategy of sustainability keeps the focus on locally owned and operated businesses to ensure the economic benefits circulate in the community. The success of the Alberta Street corridor has created jobs and small-business opportunities.

View Other Sites in This Topic