The area that we now know as the Lents neighborhood was well-trafficked before it became a city. In the mid-1880's, Foster Road was a popular route for settlers venturing to the Oregon Territory to establish land claims because many were headed for the Willamette Valley. Foster was also frequently traveled because it intersected with Powell which led to the marketplace and port hub in downtown Portland. Travelers along the Columbia River moved along SE 82nd as a route to Oregon City.
Lents neighborhood began as a self-sufficient town–with its own grocers, bankers, barbershops, and schools–that was considered a suburb of Portland. Named for Oliver P. Lent, an early settler and upstanding individual who built, owned and operated a sawmill and also served as school director, road supervisor, and justice of the peace. It made good sense to name the town in his honor and in 1892 when his son platted the town, he named it Lent. People began referring to the town as Lent's and over time the apostrophe was dropped and the name officially became Lents.
A steam-powered railway began running from Portland to Lents in 1892, transitioning to electric in 1901. The neighborhood continued to grow and by 1912, the year Lents was annexed by the City of Portland, the population had swelled to 10,000. Residents in Lents were generally lower income than those in downtown Portland and the neighborhood was at enough of a distance that it didn't receive much attention in terms of maintenance and services for things like roads and sewers.
Decades later, in the late 1970's Lents became the site for construction of Interstate 205 when residents of Laurelhurst effectively lobbied to not have the freeway run along the originally planned route of 39th Avenue. The City acquiesced and planned to build I-205 along 52nd Avenue but by the time plans were being finalized it was determined that the freeway needed to be repositioned to a less dense area and was moved to 95th Avenue. When the freeway was constructed, it effectively split the Lents neighborhood in half. Hundreds of dwellings were removed and there was a considerable impact to the commercial corridor that had evolved around the intersection of SE 92nd Avenue and Foster due to the construction of an access route to the freeway.
These impacts did not go unnoticed by the City; in the 1990s there was a strong focus on renewal in the urban center of Lents, including, "creating new family wage jobs, offering assistance to new and existing business, making improvements to local infrastructure such as streets and parks, construction of new housing and improvements to existing housing." Today the Lents neighborhood is vibrant and diverse with property values that reflect the positive changes implemented by the City along with the neighborhood association.
Lents residents have great access not only to I-205 but also to numerous Max railway stations positioned along the freeway's route. Trimet bus routes 9, 17, and 14 also offer regular service to downtown Portland.
There are two elementary schools in Lents, Kelly Elementary and Oliver P Lent School. Ron Russell Middle School is in the northeast corner of Lents, and Lane Middle School is just west of the neighborhood's western boundary. Grant High School is in the northeast corner of the neighborhood.
Points of Interest
Lents Park is a wonderful resource for the neighborhood. Founded in the early 1900s, the park began as a 5.2-acre plot that was formerly a gravel quarry. During the 1940s and 50's the city purchased adjacent lots to the park as they became available to assemble all of the lands between SE 88 & 92 and SE Holgate & Steele for park purposes. Today, the park is over 38 acres! The park has tennis and basketball courts, an off-leash dog area, soccer and football fields, horseshoes, picnic areas, and a renovated children's play area. There is also a baseball stadium called Walker Stadium that is currently home to the Portland Pickles, a collegiate wood bat baseball team that had its first official season in Walker Stadium in 2016.
The Springwater Corridor is a twenty-mile, multi-use recreational path that runs through the lower part of the Lents neighborhood, connecting the town of Boring, Oregon to the Ross Island Bridge in SE Portland. Formerly a rail corridor, the Springwater line stopped running in 1958, most of the land was acquired by the City in 1990 and Metro has acquired some additional plots since then. Construction began in the mid 90's and will continue for decades to come. This corridor is part of a larger vision for a 40-mile loop that would form a ring connecting many of Portland's neighborhoods, and encompassing numerous natural recreation areas.
Bloomington and Earl Boyles Parks are smaller properties (12.95 and 7.85 acres respectively), both in the northeast quadrant of the neighborhood. They are lovely neighborhood parks with picnic tables, large trees, open spaces, and courts/fields for various sports.
Ed Benedict Park & Skatepark is located at the very northern boundary of Lents and is truly a unique recreational area in Portland with 18,000 square feet of skateboarding terrain. The skatepark is also considered the first enviro-sensitive skate plaza because of the use of recycled materials, native plants, and on-site stormwater treatment.
Lents has hosted a vibrant farmer's market, the only one of Portland's markets with a strong international focus, since 1999. The products at this market are a wonderful, true representation of the members of the community as are the Hmong, Latino, and Russian farmers. The market is located at the intersection of SE 92nd and SE Reedway. This area used to be a vibrant commercial center in the neighborhood and has become the center of redevelopment efforts in the past few years.
With the opening of Zoiglhaus–a 200-seat German-style beer hall serving German food, German-style Pilsners and Lagers, and the odd Pacific Northwest beer–in 2015, and promise of food cart pods Collective Oregon Eateries, and Flipside Bar and Carts (both slated to open in 2018) in a four-block radius, this area could become a center of pedestrian traffic and commerce again. Bella Italian Bakery & Market is also slated to open in June 2018 at SE 91st and SE Woodstock.
There are other culinary standouts in Lents, many that are representative of the ethnic diversity in the population, including HK Cafe for incredible dim sum, and El Pato Feliz and Taqueria el Cazador and El Nutri taco cart for Mexican fare–the Portland Mercado, a Latino public market and food court, is also nearby in the adjacent Mt Scott-Arleta neighborhood. Just blocks beyond the northwestern boundary are three unique Asian and SE Asian restaurants, Kenny's Noodle House serves Cantonese food, Chungdam Korean Fusion (self-explanatory), and Best Baguette the Vietnamese/French sandwich counter serving fantastic Bahn mi. If you're more inclined to cook at home, JC Rice Noodles is a fantastic resource for fresh tofu and rice noodles in addition to other packaged Asian specialty items.
If you're looking for arts and culture events grounded in the Lents community, keep an eye on the calendar at the Team Events Center located at SE 92nd and SE Foster. It is an events space dedicated to offering a space for community or private meetings and events. Coming up later this month is a series of performances of an original play about gentrification called Repulsing the Monkey.