Division on Division

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Clarion photo Nate Davis

Photographer Nate Davis takes a look at how the new development on Division clashes with the old counter culture ethos.

By Nate Davis

As Portland has undergone mass gentrification over the last 30 years, Southeast Division street has experienced extremely rapid development. As the largely non-white, working class, leftist counterculture that developed in the city in the ‘60s-’80s has been slowly replaced by wealthy white liberals, a divide has grown between “locals” or “Portland natives’ and the transplants from the East Coast, California or other large, liberal cities like Austin or Chicago, forcing non-white and working class Portlanders out of their homes and apartments by driving up rent and replacing small businesses with whatever artisan small-plate eatery a trust fund kid with plenty to fall back on can come up with to keep themselves entertained for a few years.

Today, walking up Division Street, this divide is on full display. Across from Portland’s longest running pornographic cinema, the Oregon Theater, are trendy restaurants charging four dollars for a small dessert. On Southeast Division west of 39th and east of 18th, one can see the far-left battle cry “Eat the Rich” written among the street’s shiny new condos and five star restaurants. As Portland moves towards its 170th anniversary next year, the city faces an identity crisis and this narrow street six blocks from Cleveland is the perfect exemplar of this struggle.