Williams & Russell Project

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Williams & Russell Project2020-10-05T08:46:26+00:00

Project Description

Williams & Russell Project

Contact: MinNefer “Mjayi” Mernahkem , email or 503-823-3363

The Williams & Russell project is a collaborative effort between a community-based Williams & Russell Project Working Group (PWG), Prosper Portland, Legacy Health and the City of Portland. The project involves Legacy Health returning to the community a 1.7-acre vacant block at North Russell Street and North Williams Avenue. Historically, the site once was part of a thriving community that housed the majority of African Americans in Portland and Oregon. Institutional racism made it illegal and difficult to own land as a minority, and with few options beyond the least desirable areas of Portland, African Americans primarily settled in the northeast quadrant of the city. Given the area’s long-standing history of African American residents and businesses, the City of Portland, Prosper Portland and Legacy Health decided early on that the property should be returned to the community and that its development would be a community-led project with significant community outreach. The community-elected Project Working Group (PWG) was established to define and drive a community-centered visioning and development process.

The site was previously referred to as the Hill Block, which is the historic name of the building that once occupied the site and served as the center of the African American commercial district from the 1940s to the early 1960s. The Hill Block building’s onion-domed cupola is now located in Eliot Neighborhood’s Dawson Park.

The Williams & Russell Project property is located within an area that Prosper Portland and the City of Portland condemned in the early 1970s under urban renewal for an expansion of the hospital campus; this action displaced 171 families, 74 percent of which were African American. Emanuel Hospital (now Legacy Health) purchased land from the Portland Development Commission (now Prosper Portland) and acquired additional properties from individual owners in order to grow and expand its campus in north/northeast Portland. Through the North/Northeast Community Development Initiative (N/NE CDI) Action Plan process, community members brought continuous attention to the importance of these properties to the community.

On August 1, 2017, Prosper Portland, the Office of City of Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, and Legacy Health announced a collaborative project to develop the property.  The City of Portland, Legacy Health, and Prosper Portland have agreed to work together to facilitate a community-driven process that will determine a community vision and development proposal for the vacant site. The focus of the project is to honor Portland’s African-American community, support community housing and economic needs, and further Legacy Health’s mission of promoting health and wellness for children and families.

From August through October 2017, Prosper Portland staff and the Williams & Russell project partners met with the N/NE CDI Oversight Committee convened by Prosper Portland and the Portland Housing Bureau North/Northeast Neighborhood Housing Strategy Committee. Meetings also took place with the Legacy Emanuel Community Partnership Committee and members of the Portland African-American Leadership Forum. These meetings were designed to further discuss the Williams & Russell project and a process for community engagement, with a community-based Project Working Group as a key tenet.

Project Working Group

Nominations to the Project Working Group were solicited from organizations and community groups within or with a strong connection to the North/Northeast community. Two seats on the Project Working Group were reserved for community-at-large members. In determining the final Project Working Group roster, the Nominating Committee, representing North/Northeast community organizations and groups, focused on including generational diversity and a broad set of perspectives and skills.

The Project Working Group will define and drive a community-centered visioning and development process that will create more clarity around a broader community outreach approach and the final project elements and goals.

The Project Working Group will:
• Oversee a year-long visioning and development process that ensures a transparent, community-serving project
• Oversee the selection of the development team; and
• Communicate back to organizations/stakeholders they represent and community at large

The Williams & Russell PWG members hold strong connections to the geographic area known as 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.

Name Affiliation
Cupid Alexander City of Portland, Mayor’s Office
Michael Alexander Black United Fund & Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center (POIC)
Bryson Davis Soul District Business Association (SBDA)
Joy Alise Davis Portland African-American Leadership Forum (PAALF)
Anthony Deloney Self Enhancement Inc (SEI)
Lakeitha Elliott Community at large
James Faison Professional Business Development Group (PBDG)
Leslie Goodlow City of Portland, Portland Housing Bureau
Stephen Green Black Investment Consortium for Economic Progress (BICEP)
Tony Hopson Self Enhancement Inc (SEI)
Sharon Maxwell Community at large
Denetta Monk Urban League
E.D. Mondainé Portland National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
Dr. Alisha Moreland-Capuia Prosper Portland
Shei’Meka Owens Emanuel Displaced Persons Association 2
Justice Rajee Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center (POIC)
Walter Robinson II Portland African-American Leadership Forum (PAALF) & Urban League
Jillian Saurage North/Northeast Housing Strategy Committee
Karis Stoudamire-Phillips North/Northeast Community Development Initiative Oversight Committee
Chabre Vickers Wells Fargo
Charles Wilhoite Legacy Health, Board of Directors
MEETINGS / MILESTONES
(View Project Working Group meeting materials and media in the Document & Media Archive below)
August 23, 2017 North/Northeast CDI Oversight Committee. View meeting agenda
October 5, 2017 Oversight Committee Meeting; view meeting agenda. Legacy Emanuel Community Partnership Committee meeting
October 25, 2017 Special Meeting: Oversight Committee. View meeting agenda
November 8, 2017 Prosper Portland Board of Commissioners meeting; receive report on meetings and actions to date. View meeting agenda
December 11, 2017 Project Working Group Nominating Committee Meeting #1
December 13, 2017 Project Working Group Nominating Committee Meeting #2
January 31, 2018 Project Working Group Orientation
March 20, 2018 Project Working Group Charter Sub-committee Meeting
March 27, 2018 Community Awareness Gathering
April 4, 2018 Project Working Group Meeting #1
May 9, 2018 Project Working Group Meeting #2
June 6, 2018 Project Working Group Meeting #3
July 11, 2018 Project Working Group Meeting #4
August 1, 2018 Project Working Group Meeting #5
September 5, 2018 Project Working Group Meeting #6;
Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
and Project Charter
Ongoing Discussions with community members

Meeting Document & Media Archive

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