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Portland, to use a boxing cliché, punches above its weight. Or so it might seem in view of the way this isolated city of modest size and economic clout appears again and again in “best of” rankings of a seemingly endless variety. Best city for microbrews, bicycling, library use, urban forests, green buildings and green energy, young (and, some would add, fiercely underemployed) hipsters—on these lists and many others, Portland comes out on top or close to it.
Many of these are, admittedly, niche distinctions. But Portland makes some rankings appearances that could turn the heads of even the most skeptical observers. In 2012, Oregon had the biggest net migration of any state in the country, according to statistics from the country’s largest household moving company—the bulk of those migrants settling in and around Portland. The Rose City topped the “10 Best Cities for 2013” list published by the real-estate website Motovo. More impressive, Portland finds its way onto Monocle magazine’s list of the 25 most livable cities—not in the United States, but in the world. There on Monocle’s ranking, mingling with famous cosmopolitan cities such as Paris, Tokyo, and Madrid, stands Portland, a city that is not even one of the twenty biggest in its own country and, until recent decades, was little more than a provincial backwater.
Portland has been a rising star in national and international conversations about attractive, livable cities, and a testament to the good that can come from thoughtful urban planning and care for a city and its people (a reputation gilded by a string of flattering portrayals in the New York Times, which seems for a time to have adopted Portland as its favorite city).