On March 4, the Portland Housing Bureau's proposed 206-unit affordable housing development at Southeast 30th Avenue and Powell Boulevard will go before the city's Design Review Commission.
If all goes well, according to Housing Bureau spokeswoman Martha Calhoon, Home Forward, the nonprofit developing the four-story, 137,200-square-foot project for the city, will then seek final permits. The site of the former Safari Club strip joint will become a four-story apartment building.
"Assuming permitting goes as planned, we expect the project will begin construction by September," Calhoon says.
It's been a long time coming.
The Portland City Council declared a "housing emergency" in 2015, which was supposed to speed the development of affordable housing. Voters then passed a first-of-its-kind-in-Oregon, $258 million affordable housing bond in 2016.
On Aug. 9, 2017, the City Council voted to buy the Safari Club for $3.72 million.
"To address our affordability crisis, we have to use all the tools available," Mayor Ted Wheeler said then. "This is one example of how we can move forward."
But by the time Home Forward breaks ground in September, it will be more than four years since that vote. In the meantime, of course, the housing crisis has worsened.
The city knew there were challenges with the Safari Club property before the purchase. But Calhoon says dealing with soil quality problems and difficult access took longer than anticipated.
"Resolving the site issues required a redesign of the project, which has ultimately also resulted in a project that is bigger, features better access, has 26 more units, more parking, and better outdoor space than the original design," she says.
Wheeler says despite delays on Powell, the city's plan is working overall. "We're ahead of our housing bond goals and our promise to voters," Wheeler said.
"While every project is complex, particularly in an urban setting, delivering these affordable homes is a top priority for the Council. I'm pleased that in dealing with the site-related issues the bureau was able to come up with a plan for more units than originally planned."