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How 'badass' is your neighborhood?
Author: by John Tierney at KATU
Posted: April 27, 2011

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Do you live in a “badass” neighborhood?

Before, that question might have set off a heated debate between residents of, say, the Pearl District and the Woodstock neighborhoods. But now there’s some hard data to help answer this previously unanswerable question.

To settle your debates, check out the “Portland Badass-ness Map.” It’s a map that ranks all of Portland’s 129 neighborhoods based on how “badass”, or cool, they are.

The idea for the map was first hatched by Portland State grad students Dillon Mahmoudi and Eric Crum. They based the concept on Portland’s existing “20-minute neighborhoods” map, which looks at how many commercial services are within a 20 minute walk of any given neighborhood.

Mahmoudi and Crum wanted to make a map that went beyond just walkability and took a variety of cultural factors into account.

“What else is there in Portland that the 20 minute map doesn’t cover?” Crum recalled them asking.

Here’s the Portland-centric list of variables they came up with: MAX stops, food cart pods, coffee shops, beer/breweries/strip clubs, bike network, pinball machines and local Supportland merchants. They also took away points for neighborhoods with high property values.

Pinball might stand out as the black sheep on this list, but Mahmoudi said a fellow student convinced him it is an essential part of Portland culture.

“The more I talked to him the more I realized pinball was huge in Portland,” he said.

The pair threw all this data into a formula and the badass-ness scale was born. The top scorers fall into the “hella badass” category and the lowest scorers fall into the “Vancouver-ish” category (sorry, Vancouver).

So what is the most badass neighborhood in Portland? It’s the Boise neighborhood in North Portland. The ‘hood includes trendy Mississippi Street.

“I did not think Boise was going to win,” Crum said, even though he lives there himself.

“It was like a Cinderella neighborhood,” Mahmoudi chimed in. (Mahmoudi’s own neighborhood, Hosford-Abernethy, came in ninth.)

The dubious honor of Portland’s least-badass neighborhood goes to the unglamorously named Multnomah UC #11. UC stands for “unclaimed”.

It’s a small tract in Southwest Portland just south of the Sellwood Bridge.

We visited the Boise neighborhood to ask people if they think their neighborhood lives up to its top billing on the list.

“It’s been incredible,” Donald Bramlett said.

Bramlett owns a food cart called El Che. His cart has only been on Mississippi Street for five weeks, but he said business is booming at the food cart pod on the corner of Mississippi Street and Skidmore.

Tom Erickson, the owner of Animal Traffic vintage clothing shop, has been in the neighborhood a bit longer and said it’s a great place, but has seen a lot of change in recent years.

“Every neighborhood has its history and its story, but this one has a rich history,” he said.

He explained how the area was traditionally an affordable neighborhood with a large black population, but that has started to change. There are now new condos in the area and lots of new businesses trying to cash-in on the current “it” neighborhood.

In just the last year he’s seen four Thai restaurants and three ice cream shops open in the area.

“Everything that’s good about this neighborhood is a mixed blessing,” he said.

Crum and Mahmoudi first made the map as part of a class project. They credit Portland State professor Kevin Martin with helping them put it together.

Someday they hope to update and expand the map, but for now they’re concentrating on finishing their graduate programs. Mahmoudi is getting his Ph.D. in urban planning and Crum is getting a Masters in public administration.

City of Portland officials showed some interest in using the map to promote the city, the pair said, but in the end officials feared the name might be offensive to some.

Check out the map and see how your neighborhood ranks