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Colas Construction breaks ground on PDC project Alberta Commons
The long-vacant site is being turned into a retail center for the King neighborhood
Alberta Commons broke ground in the King neighborhood, beginning to turn a long-vacant site into retail center the provides services for the North Portland community.
A long-time Portland Development Commission project, property ownership has officially transferred to the Alberta Commons developer, Majestic Realty.
Plans include two retail buildings, one 5,000 and the other 8,000 square feet, and a landscaped plaza with seating and public art. The anchor tenant is planned to be Natural Grocers, with small, local retail to activate the corners.
"We intend to recruit minority-owned businesses to lease this (smaller) space," said Anne Mangan, senior communications coordinator with the PDC.
The PDC's goal with Alberta Commons is to foster the development of strong commercial nodes as part of the Albina Community Plan, two full blocks the PDC has been putting together since 1997.
"That lot's been vacant for years and years," Mangan said. "It's going to drive foot traffic, become more viable and it's going to make the neighborhood livelier and more attractive."
The King Neighborhood Commercial Development Strategy outlines a mix of neighborhood-scale commercial and retail use for the blocks, set out in phases including the 2008 project Vanport Square commercial condos — 16 independent condos in two buildings — and 10 single-family homes along Garfield Avenue in 2012.
The retail strip in Phase I — Vanport Square — in the block north of Alberta Commons, includes Elevated Coffee, Horn of Africa, Curious Comedy Theater, Living Color Beauty Supply, Scout & Co. and Old Town Brewing.
Alberta Commons is Phase III, to be developed at the south block along Alberta Street and MLK Boulevard. Fifty percent of its retail space is dedicated as affordable to local and minority businesses, under the PDC as master lessee.
The site is 1.67 acres, made up of seven parcels that equal 72,931 square feet.
The total projected cost for Alberta Commons is nearly $9.5 million, funded in part by the PDC's grant of $122,705 and land purchase, which cost $502,160.
Natural Grocers is working with workforce agencies to hire hyper-locally, benefitting the neighborhood.
Jillian Detweiler, development manager with the PDC, said Majestic initially proposed bringing in Trader Joe's as an anchor, but it wasn't well-received by the community. Majestic then was able to recruit Natural Grocers.
"The thought had been for some time that this second commercial phase needed an anchor that would draw more foot traffic, more customers to the project," Detweiler said. "That was a big piece of the solicitation that the PDC did — there's a reason Majestic was selected, they had those relationships."
The master lease between the PDC and Majestic will help ensure local tenanting and commercial affordability for the community. The PDC will master lease 50 percent of the retail space, not counting the grocery store, for the next 10-15 years to up to six entrepreneurs of color looking for brick-and-mortar storefronts in the northeast neighborhood.
"The Project Working Group was established to help create a community benefit agreement that would help identify local businesses with a document that provides direction for the developer to provide workforce construction opportunities for minorities, as well as retail opportunities," Detweiler said.
There have been three subcommittees for Alberta Commons: one for retail, one for the construction workforce and the public art committee.
North Portland community
Kim Moreland, senior project program manager with the PDC, said the area has been a longtime goal for a project, along with community input.
"Neighbors have been involved in it for more than a decade in terms of what they want," Moreland said. "The PDC intends to offer a reduced rate — we have agreed to master lease at a market rate as the developer would expect to achieve, but we will offer the space at a lower rate that will be negotiated with tenants and could go up as tenants are more successful."
To benefit the North Portland community, the project's construction workforce diversity goals are to reach 28.5 percent people of color, 12 percent women and 20 percent apprentice hours.
"Our hope is that this plan is responsive to the community who is engaged in planning the future of the project, it will add individual character to this development and it will represent people who have historically lived in this neighborhood," Detweiler said.
Colas Construction is finalizing subcontractors, anticipating achieving 55 percent of the deals with MWESB firms — minority-owned, women-owned and emerging small businesses — including 41 percent by MBE firms.
"For me the importance of this to Colas Construction, a minority-owned contractor trying to grow in this community, that was really a driving force for hanging in there and we believe he is really delivering opportunities for people to work on this project," Detweiler said.
The project is slated for May 2017 completion, with Natural Grocers opening in April.