The South Waterfront is a brand new development at the south part of downtown, on the west bank of the Willamette River, in an abandoned industrial area that is being displaced (some of the industrial area is still there but on the way out, apparently). The development thusfar consists of several shiny tall, new (expensive) condo and apartment towers such as the John Ross and the Meriwether plus a new OHSU office building. The development is connected to downtown by the sleek Portland Streetcar and to the OHSU main hospital complex up on Marquam Hill by the Portland Aerial Tram. The primary appeal for the development, apparently, was for OHSU doctors and employees who might enjoy living close to work; hop on the tram in the morning to get to work or hop on the streetcar to get downtown. But others who have no connection to OHSU has been buying in as well.
The Tram was controversial when it opened, because the project (partly funded by the City of Portland) went way over budget. But OHSU insisted on the Tram, which circumvents the need to drive up windy roads to the main OHSU complex, in order to continue expanding in Portland. Instead of a 20 minute snarl through traffic, you can make the tram trip in 3 minutes. It's a smooth ride, mostly. The Tram is free to OHSU employees and patients as well as to TriMet passholders but to the general public the cost is $4 per round trip ride. (The view from the Tram and from the top boarding dock at OHSU is spectular. The Tram is open to anyone who wants to ride.)
As of 2008 there isn't much of the way of retail available in the South Waterfront area - Japanese and Vietnamese restaurants, a dry cleaners, a convenience store, a bank, a coffee shop. There is a gym available in the OHSU building that residents can pay to use. Otherwise, you'll be taking the streetcar into downtown or driving there to get to any sort of variety of restaurants and shops. There are a good number of restaurants at Riverplace (one streetcar stop away) and may more off the Streetcar once you get into the Pearl District and NW Portland. Or if you own a car, you could drive quickly into downtown.
The South Waterfront development is right on the river. A greenway will be completed in 2009 to connect up South Waterfront to 40 miles of Greenway, but as of 2008 you can't walk/bike up the river to the main Waterfront Park just to the north.
If you have no connection to OHSU, you might enjoy the Pearl District (where there is tons going on) much more than South Waterfront, where so far there's little going on. If you can afford one of the higher-level condos or apartments in one of the towers, though, the views are incredible.
South Waterfront: the Meriwether and the John Ross
Portland Steetcar at South Waterfront
Portland Aerial Tram and South Waterfront (and Mt. Hood)
South Waterfront and I-5 Freeway from the air
Bike/walking trail by Willamette River, South Waterfront
Le Hana Japanese Bar & Grill, South Waterfront
Pictures are all copyrighted by Andrew Hall and may not be used or copied without permission.