Neighborhood guides Oregon

St. John’s, Portland: Living in a Small Town Within a City

Cross over the St. John’s Bridge for a quiet reprieve from urban living with a small-town vibe. Despite its tranquility and gorgeous views of rivers and lakes, you don’t have to compromise the convenience of urban amenities. You’re not far from the Pearl District or Downtown Portland where the bustle of the city is waiting for you.

Living in St. John also means lush parks, greenspace and inspired waterfront views at your doorstep. You have your choice of hiking trails and waterfront parks to explore. But despite how tightly St. John’s embraces nature, there are still trendy places to shop and imbibe into the evening hours.

Where is St. John’s?

St. John’s is located at the tip of the plateau in North Portland where the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers meet. The neighborhood’s coveted position along the waterfront makes multiple water views possible. They’re truly spectacular and draw crowds looking for a tranquil urban escape without leaving the city.

Despite being tucked away 15-minutes from the bustle of Downtown, nothing is too far away. University Park is just a stone’s throw to the south east of St. John’s. Or head into the forested areas of Northwest Portland along the neighborhood’s western edges. To the north, you’ll find Vancouver, Washington where locals can commute across state lines.

History

Over a hundred years ago, St. John’s was its own incorporated city. In 1915, the area was approved for annexation into Portland, although apparently, locals weren’t wild about paying city taxes and high prices for well water. It’s not surprising that St. John retains its independent sensibilities and represents a side of Portland visitors never venture out to see.

St. John’s is also home to the famous namesake steel suspension bridge expanding over the Willamette River. The bridge’s gothic towers soar over 400 ft. into the air and greets locals commuting home from Downtown Portland. The bridge backdrop creates a stunning backdrop for the popular Cathedral Park below.

Lifestyle

What to Do

Greenspace, parks and waterfront are the main draw around St. John’s, with plenty to explore. The neighborhood is also a popular spot for escaping the summer heat on the sandy beaches and shorelines along the Willamette and Columbia Rivers.

Take a walk or a dip in the watering holes along Kelly Point Park with views of the Columbia River. As the largest river by volume in the U.S., it’s also home to massive barges and shipping containers. It’s easy to see why boat watching is a favorite pastime.

St. John’s is also home to the largest urban freshwater wetland wildlife refuge in the country. Smith and Bybee Lakes are prime bird watching locations where binoculars are a must for wildlife sightings. The neighborhood gem, Cathedral Park, is also steeped in history. The area is thought to be a landing site during Lewis and Clark’s exploration of the Vancouver and Portland area.

The dog-friendly neighborhood is also home to Chimney Park spanning 18-acres. It’s a popular spot for dogs for its secure fencing and room to roam. The park lies alongside Pier Park complete with a skate park, recreational fields, splash pad and disc golf.

Beyond the plentiful green space, you’ll find independent and family-owned boutiques, restaurants and markets peppered around St. John’s. Go window shopping along North Lombard for antique shops and quirky boutiques. Saturdays attract a crowd to St. Johns Square and the local farmers market featuring farm-fresh baked goods and produce.

The historically lower rents around St. John’s make it attractive to creative spirits looking for an affordable place to live and practice their craft. Look for artists’ workshops and maker spaces for rent, like Green Anchors that welcomes welders and artisans.

After a day of exploring, shopping and imbibing, relax for a second-rate movie at McMenamins St. Johns Theater & Pub. It doesn’t matter if you’ve seen the movie before when you can sip handcrafted ales and pub fare to enjoy with the show.

Where to Eat & Drink

Start the morning at St. John’s Coffee Roasters and savor the organic, fair-trade beans and local chatter. Locals stop in for budget-friendly tacos located in the back of Taqueria Santa Cruz during the lunch rush. The Mexican grocery store and bakery is famous for its fresh ingredients and authentic fare.

For an afternoon pick-me-up, browse the artisanal treats from Moonstruck Chocolate or sip a pint from Occidental Brewing. The beach vibe is also alive and well at Jamaica House, featuring jerk chicken and plates of plantains. Colorful murals keep diners occupied while waiting for a table.

Looking for river views? Locals vie for an outdoor table at Urban German for beer and plates of sausages and spaetzle. The awe-inspiring views are worth it, but thankfully the food is also pretty terrific.

Moving to St John’s

Real Estate Snapshot

St. John’s eclectic architecture offers something for everyone, from Cape Cods to ranch style homes. Renters can find options in smaller complexes and modern condominiums around St. John’s.

Despite its reputation for lower rents than the rest of Portland, St. John’s has grown in popularity for its tranquility and room to roam. Expect to pay an average of $1,580 on St. John’s apartments, which is higher than the average $1,484 rent around the rest of Portland.

Apartment complexes and homes have sprung up over the last decade around St. John’s with more development in the works. There are also plans for a transitional housing village on an open plot of land behind the Saint Johns Christian Church. The details include tiny homes as a refuge to help people get off the streets.

Transportation

Locals love riding their bikes and strolling around the stunning neighborhood to get to where they need to go. It takes about 45-minutes to bike all the way Downtown, but the views keep cyclists occupied along the way. Of course, the St. John Bridge is so stunning; a drive into Downtown or Forest Park are worth the views.

TriMet public bus service is also an option from St. John’s along bus lines 44, 4 and 75 into Downtown. You can also grab a Lyft or Uber whether you’re heading into the rest of Portland or over the state line. Vancouver, Washington is just minutes away.

Schools & Employment

St. John’s recently experienced a transition and is now a family-friendly neighborhood where locals settle in for the long-haul. Parents send their kids to area public schools. Higher education is also within reach around St. John’s without getting far from the views at St. John’s University and North Portland/University of Portland.

Artists, entrepreneurs and small business owners all call St. John’s home. The Portland enclave is a serious contender for dining and retail, but locals are also close to other job markets. The neighborhood is just 15-minutes to the job markets in Downtown Portland or Vancouver, Washington, and about 20-minutes to Beaverton.

Ready to pack your hiking boots and settle into the leafy neighborhood of St. John’s with views of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers? This independent neighborhood retains the spirit of Portland’s quirky creativity and small-town vibe. Check out all the available apartments for rent in St. John’s on RENTCafe.com.

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About the author

Florentina Sarac

Florentina Sarac is a creative writer, editor, and researcher for RENTCafé. She covers a variety of topics, from real estate trends, demographic shifts, housing industry news and multifamily construction to homeownership, smart-home technology, personal finance and business. With a 7-year background in the real estate industry, Florentina has also penned articles for publications such as Multi-Housing News, Commercial Property Executive and the National Apartment Association Magazine. You can connect with Florentina via email.

Florentina’s work and expertise have been featured in several major U.S. and international publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Bisnow, The Mercury News, Curbed, The NY Post, CBS News, Business Insider and Realtor.com. She holds a B.A. in English and Spanish, as well as an M.A. in Multilingual and Multicultural Communication, which serve as a testament to her love of literature and language.

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