Foster just may get the residential development it sorely needs. Oddly enough, and refreshingly so, it probably won’t come at the hands of developers moving on from their latest fetes on Hawthorne, Division, or the stretch of SE 50th that connects both of them to Foster. Instead, a city-owned parcel of land at SE 72nd and Foster, just across the street from the Portland Mercado, may be developed as a mixed-use project with up to 60 units of affordable housing.
For a little background, the Portland Development Commission (PDC) purchased the site several years ago, along with the lot where the Mercado now sits, as part of its plan for the Lents Town Center Urban Renewal Area (URA) and its inclusion of Foster Road. More recently, the site has been identified as one of five city-owned properties being made available for the construction of affordable housing. This is part of a recent Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA), in which “…the Portland Housing Bureau (PHB) in partnership with Multnomah County, the Portland Development Commission (PDC), and Home Forward is making available up to $61,600,000 in federal and local funds as well as five sites and up to 100 project based Section 8 vouchers for development, rehabilitation and/or preservation of affordable housing.”
In regards to the site at SE 72nd and Foster, not only is the city making it available for the development of affordable housing, but increased funding is there to make it a strong likelihood. The current NOFA requires proposals be submitted by January 11, which means ideas for the lot will soon take shape. At this point, there’s already at least one proposal on the table.
In May, 2014, the PDC published its five-year action plan for the Lents Town Center URA, and in that document they identified SE 72nd as an important node along the Foster corridor. They sought to activate the intersection by facilitating development of the Portland Mercado (on the east) and a commercial or mixed-use project (on the west). With the city’s affordable housing crisis, along with the current NOFA, it appears as if the timing is perfect for this lot to finally be developed.
Requirements and preference criteria, as stated in the NOFA, indicate that a future project would have a minimum of 40 units, affordable to households making 60% or less of the area median income, and contain at least 10,000 square feet of commercial space. The mixed-use element seems to be the overriding theme outside of the affordable housing goal. In terms of the commercial space that will be required, it must be located on the ground floor and front Foster Road. As per
the NOFA, the design and use of the commercial space must be compatible with the Portland Mercado; be affordable for long-term use to for-profit businesses, especially those that are minority-owned; add to the sustainability of the commercial district by complementing nearby businesses, not competing with them.
For an area that is rapidly changing and seeing home values climb by the day, a project like this could go a long way in stemming the tide of gentrification, while also adding to the vitality of the Foster commercial corridor. We’ve discussed the need for affordable housing in the neighborhood before, and it appears this may be our first chance to make a dent in that need.
The proposal currently on the table for the site is by ROSE CDC, in partnership with Sera Architects, Walsh Construction, and Human Solutions. It’s unclear if the proposal has been formally submitted to the city, but ROSE has already shared their vision for the site with the Mt. Scott-Arleta Neighborhood Association, and plan to do so again with the Foster-Powell Neighborhood Association this coming Monday. While specifics aren’t extensive, the plan would include the aforementioned 10,000 square feet of commercial space, as well as 60 units of affordable rental housing.
It’s possible that more proposals will be submitted prior to the January 11 deadline, but the framework for any future development as part of the NOFA will be pretty consistent. Once submissions are in, a notice of awards will be made by March, 2016. It is unclear how fast a project would move after that. Regardless, much needed mixed-use and affordable housing development could be on the horizon.