While some people are busy trying to disrupt the lives of people of color, others are working together to secure the history of African Americans. That’s the case in Portland, Oregon, where a diverse group has come together to work on restoring a Black neighborhood. According to the OregonLive.com, bulldozed decades ago to make way for Interstate 5, a hospital and the Rose Quarter, the story of Portland’s Albina District often goes unacknowledged, and the possibility of future development continues to threaten the neighborhood’s livability. But one group is trying to change that. Investors, architects, artists, developers and members of Portland’s African American community, along with others, has come together to form Albina Vision Trust. The group aims to come up with a vision to build affordable housing and help restore 94 acres along the Willamette in inner North and Northeast Portland. To accomplish this, leaders believe they need to start at the grassroots level, rather than taking a top-to-bottom approach, said Rukaiyah Adams, a key leader of the Albina Vision. The Albina Trust would act as “curators for the district, raising money, raising money, providing programming and determining how land will be used. A number of developments need to happen before the Albina Vision can start to take shape — implementing the group’s plans will take upwards of 15 years, depending on the infrastructure and business location changes as well as how fast it receives funding. The first priority is getting caps on I-5 in the Boise neighborhood, said Zari Santner, former Portland Parks Director, who is also involved in the Albina Vision. They want the neighborhood to feel walkable, and putting caps on the interstate would block noise and some pollution from traffic while improving the area’s overall aesthetic, she said.
Building a multicultural plaza is also key, leaders have said. They want to bring back the element of Albina that was based culturally in the arts, when affordable jazz venues abounded. Having an open space for the community to gather is important, Santner said. On top of that, the crux of the whole project is affordable housing. Ron Herndon, with Albina Head Start, would like to construct 5,000 units of affordable housing in Lower Albina. The goal is to grow Portland more affordably and bring back displaced residents. Most recently, the prospect of a new major league baseball stadium has threatened the vision. The Portland Diamond Project offered Portland Public Schools $80 million to buy its headquarters just north of the Moda Center. PPS told the Diamond Project it would consider other offers, but the possibility of the stadium still hangs in the air. Adams said the stadium, which would be located at the southern end of the area Albina Vision would like to develop, would not be compatible with the project. The group could still build affordable housing units and rework some design plans, but would not be able to fully accomplish its goals. “We aren’t anti-baseball,” Adams said, adding that she believes a baseball stadium would be best on the outskirts of the city. “Baseball may come and go, but Portlanders are going to stay here.”