Williams & Russell Development Concept

Draft development concept for the Williams & Russell site from the chosen development team: development partners Adre, Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives Inc, Community Development Partners; general contractor Colas Construction; and design partners LEVER Architecture and Hood Design Studio.

July 22, 2021

Contact: Bryson Davis, Williams & Russell Project Working Group Co-Chair, 971.238.4826
Contact: Justice Rajee, Williams & Russell Project Working Group Co-Chair
Contact: Shawn Uhlman, Prosper Portland, 503-823-7994

Black-led development team to advance the community vision for Williams & Russell project

The Project Working Group (PWG) of the Williams and Russell Project has selected a Black-led development team to advance the community vision for a 1.7-acre vacant block at North Russell Street and North Williams Avenue.

The five-member team includes Adre, a Portland-based equity-centered development company; Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives, a NE Portland affordable rental housing leader; Community Development Partners, an affordable housing developer/asset manager based in NE Portland; Portland-based Colas Construction, the largest Black-owned construction firm in the Pacific Northwest; LEVER Architecture, a designer of affordable housing, community spaces and office developments in NE Portland; and Hood Design Studio, a Black-owned landscape design and public art firm based in Oakland, CA.

The Adre team and its development concept of affordable apartments, affordable homes, plaza and garden, and communal office space was the Project Working Group’s unanimous choice. Group members cited the team’s deep knowledge base, history of serving Portland’s Black community, alignment with community values, and attention to equity practices and goals as key factors in the selection.

Anyeley Hallová, founder of Adre, said, “It is an incredible privilege to be the chosen development team to advocate for and realize the dreams of Portland’s African American community for the Williams & Russell project, and to lay down a foundation where the community can rebuild and set down roots once again.”

As part of the overall redevelopment plan for the Williams and Russell site, Legacy Health, the current owner of the site, is prepared to grant the property to the PWG or an entity the PWG designates. The PWG is in the process of forming a new nonprofit, the Williams and Russell Community Development Corporation (CDC), which will accept the property and negotiate with the selected team the specifics of the site development.

PWG co-chair Bryson Davis said, “The Adre-led team really made our decision easy by internalizing the values that were expressed by the community in our work sessions and letting those values define their approach and guide their proposal.”

PWG co-chair Justice Rajee said, “We reached this milestone with the guidance of the community’s voice and values. This is a big deal for the community.”

The PWG issued a request for proposals in February 2021 seeking a development partner to develop the parcel of land in alignment with community needs and priorities and honoring the history of Portland’s African American community on the site. The community prioritized the following outcomes for development: 1. Housing/Affordable Rental & Home Ownership; 2. Education/Workforce Training; 3. Community Space; 4. Support for Entrepreneurs.

The RFP received three responsive proposals. Each proposing team answered PWG questions in writing and participated in a public presentation as well as in individual interviews with the PWG.

The Williams and Russell project is a collaborative effort between the community-based Williams & Russell Project Working Group (PWG), Prosper Portland, Portland Housing Bureau, Legacy Health and the City of Portland. The project property is located in an area on Northeast Portland that the Portland Development Commission (now Prosper Portland) and the city condemned in the early 1970s under urban renewal for an expansion of the Emanuel Hospital (now Legacy Health) campus; this action displaced 171 families, 74 percent of which were African American.

The project is community-led with significant community outreach. For the past four years, the Project Working Group has defined and led a community-centered visioning and development process.

PWG members hold strong connections to the North/Northeast community. Several are second and third generation Portlanders and have personal experience and institutional knowledge about the community, family members who were displaced as a result of urban renewal tied to this area, and extremely strong ties to community-based institutions and organizations. Collectively, they have clear perspective about the needs of Portland’s Black/African American community.

Additional quotes from the development team members:

Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives Inc.
“Though the land may be unoccupied at this moment, we know that it is not a blank slate. It carries a strong history and a connection to the past,” said Kymberly Horner, Executive Director, PCRI. “We think about community leaders who gathered in these very blocks in the past and we honor their legacies by imagining by imagining an abundant Black community thriving here long into the future.”

Community Development Partners
“Collectively, our team has extensive business and personal connections to N/NE Portland and is committed to ensuring all developments are sustainable and enhance the fabric of the community,” said Jessica Woodruff, Director of Development, CDP.

Colas Construction
“We are proud to participate in a construction development model that emphasizes community –  with intentional project values and equitable opportunities for individuals and businesses of the Black community while placing a greater emphasis on improving the lives of people over profit,” said Andrew Colas, President, Colas Construction.

LEVER Architecture
“Executing a cohesive vision, with direction and inspiration from the community, into a meaningful reality is paramount to countering a legacy of undervaluing one of our most treasured resources: our people,” said Chandra Robinson, Principal, LEVER Architecture. “Portland is my hometown and it’s an honor to help create a place where future generations of Black Portlanders will thrive.”

Learn more about the history of the Williams & Russell site