Nike co-founder Phil Knight and his wife, Penny, today pledged $400 million to invest in North Portland’s Albina neighborhood through a new nonprofit organization called the 1803 Fund.
The 1803 Fund will be run by Rukaiyah Adams, former chief investment officer at the Meyer Memorial Trust and former chair of the Oregon Investment Council. The fund’s first project is called Rebuild Albina. It will invest in “education, place and culture and belonging in the Albina community, with benefits that will ripple across Portland.”
Adams has been a prominent champion of restoring the historically Black neighborhood of Albina that was sundered by construction projects and the siting of an interstate highway. City and state officials took a big step toward her vision last year by committing to build caps over Interstate 5, creating new real estate for businesses and housing. Now Knight is poised to fund the shaping of that neighborhood restoration.
Knight announced his pledge Monday at a press conference at the Nike campus. “This could be something special,” he said.
He went on to paraphrase John F. Kennedy’s famous quote: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
The fund is named for the year that York, the Black explorer, joined the Lewis & Clark Expedition. York was the enslaved “body servant” to William Clark, and after the expedition’s return, he was denied payment and his freedom, according to the National Park Service.
The 1803 Fund will raise more money atop the Knight gift, Adams said, adding it was too early to talk about how the fund will operate or what projects it will support.
“We’re diving into some of the most challenging parts of our civic life,” Adams said. “We want to be part of the pivot in Portland to a more exciting, prosperous and diverse future.”
The 1803 Fund will be overseen by a board of directors that includes Tony Hopson, founder and CEO of Self-Enhancement Inc.; Ron Herndon, founder of the Portland chapter of the Black United Front; Nike CEO John Donahoe; and Larry Miller, chairman of Nike’s Michael Jordan Brand.
Knight attended Portland’s Cleveland High School.
“The handshake deal with Bill Bowerman that launched Nike happened in Lower Albina near Memorial Coliseum,” Knight said in a press release. “And Lower Albina was the focus of the initial agreement struck with Ron Herndon and Tony Hopson to build a Nike retail store with a share of the profits invested back into the community.”
Not mentioned at the press event was Knight’s $2 billion offer to purchase the Portland Trail Blazers, the NBA team whose arena stands in the center of the Albina neighborhood. But today’s investment places Knight in the center of North and Northeast Portland in a way that is likely to give him additional leverage. (In January, WW proposed that Knight use the Blazers as a centerpiece of a neighborhood overhaul.)