Residents discussed their goals for the next phase of Lents development

Focused on the re-development of 4.4 acre site on SE 92nd Ave and Harold St, Prosper Portland hosted the first of two meetings about Phase 2 of its Lents Town Center urban renewal project Monday, Jan 14th.

Early in the meeting, Kimberly Branam, executive director for Prosper Portland, acknowledged that they expected a charged conversation, but pointed out that even though there were differing opinions present, everyone was involved because they care about Lents.

Branam said that on these lots there is potential for housing, retail, and community space. The project’s time line states that this spring a binding agreement will establish the “project timing, the amount of public investment, and public benefits to be achieved”. Construction is expected to begin as early as Fall of 2019.

About 50 people attended, and many were with Green Lents Lents Strong! Housing Team, a group advocating for an affordable Lents Town Center.

Multiple people voiced complaints that the meeting wasn’t well publicized. Prosper Portland said the meeting was public, but geared towards stakeholders. The next meeting, planned for Feb 25th at the Wattles Boys & Girls Club (6 pm – 9 pm, event), will be better publicized, they said.

Sign up here to get email updates on Phase 2 of the project. If you’re new to the issue, get more information on the project’s background here.

A member of Lents Strong was allowed to read a statement early in the meeting. The statement urged attendees to think about the people displaced, and said that the Lents Town Center projects were urban removal not urban revival.

Prosper Portland officials said that there wasn’t money in the budget to subsidize rents to offer true housing affordability.

Listen to audio of the presentation from Prosper Portland and Portland Housing Authority here.

At the end of the meeting, Alison Wicks said if anyone had questions they should reach out to her: wicksa@prosperportland.us. I wrote to and asked about what aspects of the project were still undetermined. She didn’t respond, but if she does I’ll update the post.

After the presentation, attendees broke into small groups to talk about what residents wanted on the property and what they loved about the neighborhood.

The first group summary: They were concerned that what happened in North and Northeast Portland would happen in Lents. They also wanted to see better outreach to people who already live in Lents about the affordable housing options when they come available.

They also wanted more activities, family-sized housing, and possibility a library were also what they wanted to see in the neighborhood.

The second group: They wanted to keep housing affordable, respect the last 18 years of community input on this urban renewal project, and be aware of the risks taken by current small businesses. They also expressed concern that if the deal in place with Palindrome Communities isn’t respected, no one would be likely to invest down the line.

The third group: Concern was expressed that the area was becoming a food desert, and they wanted to attract culturally-specific businesses like the Portland Mercado. They also wanted family-sized units, elder care facilities, and a public art component to whatever goes in.

Group four: This group wanted a community center to maintain the flavor of the community, non-displacement, accountability with development, and true affordable housing in the neighborhood.

Group five (my group, because I’m not living in Lents, I didn’t participate): Several long-term residents said that they were upset that the neighborhood was changing and places like the Copper Penny was gone. It was also said that engaging all the communities of Lents was crucial.

Concern was expressed that decisions were already made, making participation in engagement a waste of time.

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