The Portland Development Commission voted 5-0 to approve the purchase of the family home of former state Sen. Avel Gordly (D-Portland) on Wednesday.
The vote came a day after WW reported that the proposed $495,000 transaction violated eight of the city agency's guidelines for making loans. (The purchase price is $61,000, or 12 percent, above the value of the appraisal the PDC obtained in June.)
In an interview before the vote, PDC Executive Director Kimberly Branam acknowledged that the transaction is unusual and that it violates her agency's loan guidelines.
Branam said, however, that as executive director, she has the authority to recommend transactions that are outside normal procedure if the circumstances are exceptional.
Branam said that Gordly's longtime leadership in the African American community, combined with PDC's desire to address historical inequities in the city, including the gentrification of the Humboldt neighborhood where the home is located, convinced her that the purchase was appropriate. She added that the strength of the Portland's real estate market and the rapid development near the home made her comfortable with paying above appraised value.
The home is located at 4511 North Williams Ave., just north of a string of new apartment buildings, a New Seasons Market and a slew of restaurants and bars. The property's zoning would allow for six residential units on the 6,000 square-foot lot, so if the 103-year-old home were placed on the open market, it would probably be demolished and replaced with a multi-unit development.
Jillian Detweiler, an aide to Mayor Charlie Hayes, who also participated in the interview with Branam, says Hales is fully supportive of using city money to preserve the house.
Gordly and her sister, Faye Burch, who is a co-owner of the home, first approached Hales' office about the transaction last year. Hales' staff suggested that PDC help arrange the purchase of the home by the Portland African American Leadership Forum. The property is slated to become an African American cultural center, with historical records and artifacts and to provide office space for PAALF.
Branam says that if PAALF and the Oregon Historical Society, which is assisting on the project, fail to complete a business plan and deliver the cultural center, the PDC's loan is secured by a trust deed and could take possession of the property, which is located on the booming North Williams Avenue corridor.
"We think it's a very worthwhile project," Branam says. "And if something goes wrong, the city's financial interests are protected."