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South Waterfront District Becoming More Affordable

It’s taken eight years, but the City of Portland has finally made good on a promise to create affordable housing among the high-rise condos of the South Waterfront District.

Tuesday, the city broke ground on a $50 million building that will include around 200 units for low-income residents.  As Geoff Norcross reports, the neighbors are taking a wait-and-see approach.

About a dozen community leaders donned yellow hard hats, grabbed golden shovels, stood in the rain and proclaimed: “Hey Block 49!  Block 49!!”

Block 49 is a piece of city-owned property near the southern edge of the district.  It will be the first development in the South Waterfront to include low-rent apartments for people earning 50 percent of the median family income.

That works out to about $36,000 for a family of four. The city has promised to create a total of around 400 affordable units in the district. 

Margaret Van Vliet is the Director of the Portland Housing Bureau.  She says people of modest means should be able to live what she calls “the good life”.

Margaret Van Vliet: “And I think it’s a part of the value of this city, that we want to have even people of modest means have the ability to enjoy the good stuff.  Why shouldn’t they have a green building that’s well-located that’s on the street car, access to health and health services?”

Van Vliet says she’s aware there aren’t many low-cost grocery and food options in the area, but the bureau is including those things in its long-term plan.

And what do current residents think about their new neighbors?  Kartz Ucci was walking her dogs just a few blocks from the groundbreaking. She has lived in the South Waterfront for a year.

Kartz Ucci: “I think it’ll be interesting to see how it works out with the neighborhood and if it changes the nature of the neighborhood.  In all urban areas, there are all kinds of mixed housing, and this is downtown.  So it’s to be expected.”

Block 49 will feature another aspect of urban living: mixed-use buildings. 

REACH Community Development will occupy the bottom floor.  That’s the nonprofit that was selected by the city to build the complex. 

A REACH spokeswoman says they expect to finish construction in November of next year.

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