Eclectic dining options, sky-high walking and biking scores, and a community of resident-advocates — there’s lots to love about King.  

This historically Black neighborhood, stretching between Ainsworth and Fremont streets and bisected by Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, has worked hard to maintain its proud identity through decades of displacement and city disinvestment. Today, the neighborhood is thriving thanks to the efforts of a close-knit community with an ongoing commitment to supporting Black-owned businesses, but as gentrification bumps up the cost of living, the challenge has shifted to keeping that growth inclusive for all residents.

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Photo: Portland Parks and Recreation

King families often gather at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School’s King School Park, which doubles as a community hub in the heart of the neighborhood, hosting the King Farmers Market May through November and plenty of other annual community-building events. (It’s been a popular gathering spot for Black Lives Matter marchers throughout 2020.)  A deep tradition of grassroots organizing has also shaped the physical contours of King: In the 1990s, residents cleared out a vacant lot and persuaded the City of Portland to fund its transformation into Two Plum Park — a beloved pint-sized playground for neighborhood littles.  At King’s southern edge, Irving Park offers extra room to roam, and at the neighborhood’s eastern boundary, the vibrant Alberta Arts District offers year-round strolling, murals galore and lots of super-local shopping, plus a colorful annual street fair. 

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For filling breakfast staples without the wait, Fuel Cafe on restaurant-filled Northeast Alberta Street is a go-to family spot, but don’t overlook the culinary delights dotting Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, particularly between Shaver and Fremont streets. There, you’ll find a rich spread of restaurants and carts serving up everything from authentic, family-friendly West African staples at Akadi PDX to a rotating menu of scrumptious soul food classics served up in portions hefty enough to feed a crowd at Kee’s Loaded Kitchen. (Neighborhood kids go especially nuts for the coconut layer cake.) Be sure to hit Kee’s early in the day, though: This fare sells out fast!

Sharisha Hicks, owner of local day care Royal Owl Academy and a longtime King resident, loves the vibe here. “It’s a good neighborhood to raise a family in,” she says. “It’s diverse, with good schools and good families.”  Her own family’s been in the neighborhood for half a century, and she’s now raising up a fourth generation of King residents — Aminia, 17; Ameiah, 9; and Ameir, 3; in the home she inherited from her grandmother and shares with her husband, Lalu, and mother-in-law, Barbara. Hicks got her start in child care babysitting for a neighbor’s grandchildren when she was still a kid herself, and today she operates a certified family day care out of her house. She praises King’s walkability, its calm and its close proximity to parks where her day care kiddos can run their energy out. Her street — and the neighbors living on it — hasn’t changed too much over the decades, though things definitely feel quieter than they were when Hicks was growing up. “There were a lot more kids,” she recalls. “We used to play softball on the corner and stay out till the streetlights came on.”

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$610,950 Median home price

$1,899  Average rent for a 2-bedroom apartment

Sources: Redfin and Zumper

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Erin Bernard
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