A relatively quiet city originally built around a historic 19th century fort complex, Vancouver is a sprawling Washington suburb situated just across the river from north Portland. The area tends to be characterized by a mature attitude in most neighborhoods combined with the region’s typical enthusiasm for recreation and nature. Because of its close proximity to the Rose City Vancouver is popular with people who want to maximise their earnings by living in Washington and shopping in Oregon, taking advantage of Oregon’s lack of a sales tax while still benefitting from Washington’s absent income tax.
Having expanded organically since the mid 1800’s, unimpeded by any sort of urban growth boundary, the arrangement of Vancouver’s streets and neighborhood districts is a bit more haphazard than its big neighbor to the south. By far the largest of the city’s predominantly small neighborhoods is Fruit Valley in the west, encompassing the bustling port of Vancouver along with agricultural operations, numerous nature areas and a significant amount of World War II-era lodgings initially built to house shipyard workers. Neighborhoods making up the far more residential northwest districts consist mainly of suburban style single family homes, with some upscale promontory areas offering views of Vancouver Lake and the surrounding lowlands. Those who enjoy some light exercise will find numerous bike and walking trails as well as popular community parks. Just east across I-5 is the old West Minnehaha community, a decidedly more diverse environment comprised of semi-rural, commercial and urban elements that appeals to homeowners who appreciate a sense of autonomy.
The central and southwest parts of town are where most contemporary redevelopment has taken place, exemplified by the ambitious Waterfront development in Vancouver’s Esther Short neighborhood. Part of a recent city-driven trend make the entire downtown district more appealing, the plan adds 32 acres of dramatic new mixed-use buildings and a state-of-the-art park to the city’s longstanding cultural, commercial and municipal center. These old parts of town, including the adjacent Carter Park and Arnada communities, also represent some of the most pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods in Vancouver. Nearby Esther Short Park, first dedicated in 1855, is the oldest public park in Washington. Central neighborhoods like Meadow Homes, Vancouver Heights and Ogden all contain the usual suburban mix of parks, small businesses and plentiful housing as well as ready access to the expansive Vancouver Mall just north of SR 500.
Far removed from the city’s major industry and downtown developments, communities on Vancouver’s east side were built progressively later than their west side counterparts. Instead of the older west side’s city-style street grids you’ll find winding roads, cul-de-sacs, an assortment of architectural styles and the occasional shopping center. While effectively car-centric in their design, the neighborhoods of east Vancouver also feature numerous parks and proximity to nearby natural areas.