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A special new 'affordable housing' modular apartment development is getting coming soon to S.E. Holgate

COURTESY OF BORA ARCHITECTS & INTERIORS - A five-story affordable housing apartment building for young Black professionals is set to be built at S.E. 38th and Holgate Boulevard.  A new development that's planned for the corner of S.E. 38th and Holgate will provide affordable housing for young Blacks pursuing architectural, engineering, and construction management (AEC) careers. The five-story building will consist of at least 72 small apartments, and is expected to open in 2024.

"Young Black Professionals Workforce Housing" (YBP) will sit on the green space just north of Holgate House, a building of similar size that provides low-income housing at 4601 S,E. Cesar Chavez Boulevard (formerly 39th). Home Forward, Portland's public housing authority, owns the land.

Private funding will pay for the construction, and rent will be capped at 60% of Area Median Income. Partners in this project include the Portland nonprofit "Self Enhancement, Inc." (SEI), as well as Architects & Interiors (Bora), Andersen Construction (Andersen), and HMS Development. They will be constructing a similar building simultaneously at S.E. 11th and Ankeny.

PAIGE WALLACE - New affordable housing at S.E. 38th and Holgate will uproot at least some of these large trees from the communal green space north of Holgate House. Construction is set to take place in 2023. To keep costs down and create a replicable model of affordable housing construction, Bora opted for a modular approach. A contractor will fabricate each of the building's apartments in Idaho, then truck those here as nearly-complete units. A large construction crane will then assemble them, one atop the other, on the Holgate property. This work is expected to happen in the summer of 2023.

Design plans include communal outdoor space, but of course construction will impact the natural elements in the current green space. The project will widen the sidewalk along Holgate, reduce the size of setbacks, and remove existing trees. "We're looking at whether there are any we could preserve," Bora architect and YBP project manager Leslie Cliffe remarked, "But part of the issue is that when you use a crane in these places, you can't really do that very delicately around trees."

Holgate House residents currently have garden boxes situated in the construction zone, but Cliffe said those will be relocated to the south side of their residence.

The YBP project will not include any off-street parking, a decision that sparked concern from community members when Cliffe presented the project at a Creston-Kenilworth Neighborhood Association meeting last September. She acknowledged this is a difficult subject, and cited efforts to maximize the number of units in the building, plus the added cost of building a parking area, community space requirements for permitting, and proximity to transit lines, as factors behind that decision. "A lot of people can get around without needing a car, so we hope that it won't have a huge impact on the neighborhood," she said at the time.

The ideas behind YBP sprang out of the racial justice movement of 2020. "There were all these Black Lives Matter protests happening, and that really raised everyone's consciousness," Cliffe recalled. "We thought, what can we do to help with this problem?" Bora employees began brainstorming ways they could address systemic racism, the housing crisis, and underrepresentation of minorities in their industry – whichh, in Oregon, includes only four licensed Black architects, according to Bora's online publication about the YBP project.

Meanwhile, SEI and Andersen were already working on the apprenticeship program to give Black Portlanders access to AEC careers. These ideas and dreams coalesced as the parties began talking with each other.

PAIGE WALLACE - Construction crews will need to relocate these garden boxes, currently used by residents of nearby Holgate House, in order to accommodate construction of the new five-story affordable housing apartment project. "What if we built this place where these professionals lived, and grew, and bonded, and pushed each other to become better?" said Anthony Deloney, Development Director for SEI. "It's kind of been our big picture dream about what we can do and how we can how we can change the trajectory of Black people in Portland."

Cliffe echoed that enthusiasm. "You're giving them a good foundation, and an affordable place to live as they're part of the program – but you're also giving them those connections that we all know are so important to progressing in any industry."

SEI will run all YBP program operations, including the Holgate building. Deloney is currently recruiting participants, raising funds, and signing on local businesses to hire apprentices. He expressed enthusiasm about this program, reminding that he's worked with SEI for 25 years, and "this is probably one of my most exciting projects."

Cliffe agreed. "It's just so rewarding to work on such a great mission. We're excited to actually bring students from the program into Bora's office as interns and have that direct connection." She added that she intends to reach back out to the neighborhood association soon, to share the updated schematics, because the layout of the YBP building has changed slightly since her original presentation.


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