We Love Dreamers
An Oregon original, the “Street of Dreams,” celebrates its 30th anniversary
Alyse Vordermark

Avocado appliances, intercom systems, mirrored walls and self-cleaning ovens. You’ll find all these modern features in the Street of Dreams homes—of 1976.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Home Builders Association (HBA) of Metropolitan Portland’s NW Natural Street of Dreams. Every year the homes have been a showcase for the latest in residential architecture, interior design and landscaping. And every year the homes have been getting bigger and better. The 2005 homes are no exception.

“The concept was developed by past HBA President Ron Sorensen and myself after a local TV newscaster did a story on new home construction and said, ‘They sure don't build them like they used to.’ We wanted to show him and the public that he was right; we build them better,” says Jim Goodrich, former HBA Executive Vice President.

With 29 shows under their belt, the HBA has a lot to be proud of. The Portland Street of Dreams (SOD) sparked an interest in luxury home building shows across the country. Oregon, where we love dreamers, inspired the very first of these unique dream home showcases.

“The SOD has been staged from Seattle to Sacramento to Atlanta to Oklahoma City...and many cities in between. I have had the honor of marketing some of those shows and I always had a sense of hometown pride in the recognition of an event that started in Portland,” says Duncan Strang of MBT Marketing, who led the SOD marketing for its first 29 years.

But pulling off the show has not always been an easy task. During the housing slump of the early 1980s when interest rates skyrocketed, the show managed to stay afloat but not without a lot of help.

“During the early 80s when interest rates went through the roof, it was difficult for builders to get construction financing. I spent a lot of time phoning lenders all over the country to get money for builders,” recalls Goodrich.

“In the early 80s, the SOD faced major crises during the tremendous local housing slump. I am still amazed how Von Summers was able to get builder participation (and to stage a show) during those lean years,” says Strang.

Von Summers, former HBA Director of Marketing and SOD show director from 1984 to 1997, credits the faith of a few lenders for making it through those tough years. Many banks pulled out of construction lending because the housing market burned them. “The company that really saved us was Columbia Services that was later bought out by Washington Mutual. Their new construction division held every one of the loans on the houses for two years. They saved us, really. A lot of people weren’t taking that chance,” says Summers.

On top of the lending crisis, Summers also recalls hesitation from builders as lot prices began to soar in the 80s. “I remember in 1986 when the lot prices reached 30 grand for a lot, and we almost had a mutiny with the builders. They thought that this was just outrageous. We had several that said, ‘If that’s what lot prices are going to be, we aren’t building.’ Oh my gosh, $30,000, you couldn’t even pick up any lot anywhere in the city for $30,000 anymore.” This during a time when the SOD home prices averaged close to $290,000 and the largest home was only 4,000 sq. ft.

This year’s homes are priced between $2.2 million and $4.1 million and range in size from 4,800 sq. ft to 8,000 sq. ft.

“I remember really being wowed at homes in the 1990 show. But the homes now— they’re just absolutely incredible,” says Summers.

Have the sizes and amenities of the SOD homes gone too far out of the average home buyer’s reach? No, says Darrell Nelson, the 1998 and 1999 SOD show manager. “That’s what consumers want to see. Even though consumers, by and large, aren’t out there to look at a [SOD] home to buy, people are willing to spend small fortunes to make their home the way that they want it,” says Nelson. “A lot of the things people see at this show, people will take home and put into their 3,000 sq. ft. house. Maybe they scale back their media rooms somewhat, but the Street of Dreams gives them a starting place to go and look.”

“I like to think of the Street of Dreams as a 3-D Sunset magazine, where people can look, touch, and photograph the things they would like in their future new home,” says Goodrich.

Putting on a show of this magnitude doesn’t come without its stresses. Strang remembers some hectic times: “The fire in one of the homes three hours before the gala opening event at the Hillsboro SOD, and watching other builders and subs race to prevent major damage; a torrential rain storm at the second SOD that literally sent all the barkdust from eight homes cascading down the street. And my favorite...watching our English double- decker shuttle bus breakdown at the busiest hour on a Sunday afternoon, as it had been my idea.”

Another near disaster occurred in 1985 when Von Summers was in charge of putting up the signs in front of the show homes, hours before the show opened. “That morning I had gone around to all of the builders and said, ‘Tell us specifically where we can put this four-by-four post in your front yard,’” says Summers. As instructed, one of the builders put out a marker. “I go out there and the first clunk down with the post hole digger and I hit his sprinkler system. Water is just flowing everywhere. It was literally about an hour before the first event. Bark dust is blowing everywhere. It was a mess.”

But Street of Dreams organizers take all these accidents in stride and can’t deny all the fond memories they’ve had from the shows. Strang sums up his favorites: “The West Linn show with over 100,000 visitors; the first check presented to Doernbecher Childrens' Hospital from the Miracle Home project; and watching a young builder's first SOD home launch his building career.”

For more information about the 2005 Street of Dreams, go to www.streetofdreamspdx.com.


Street of Dreams Home Prices

      1977     1987     1990         2005
High $169,900 $349,000 $1,100,000   $4.1 million
Low   $85,000 $241,000   $509,900   $2.2 million
  Source: Street of Dreams Magazines

Street of Dreams Home Sizes (in sq. ft.)

       1977   1987   1990   2005
High  3,160  4,022  6,611  8,000
Low   1,620  2,992  3,682  4,800
  Source: Street of Dreams Magazines

30-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgages

 1977   June 1987 June 1990 June 2005
 8.86%  10.54%    10.16%    5.63%
  Source: Freddie Mac

Special Features and Amenities in the 1977 Street of Dreams Home:
Mirrored walls
Intercom system
Brick tile floors
Sunken living room floors
Built-in microwaves
Refrigerators with ice makers
Underground sprinkler systems
Self-cleaning wall ovens

BrainstormNW - May 2007

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