BIPOC-Run Nonprofit Seeks to Turn Long-Empty Car Wash Into Affordable Housing

Our Streets PDX purchased the lot from a California timber heir last fall.

5733 NE MLK Car Wash (Mick Hangland-Skill)

Just over a year ago, WW wrote about a long-empty car wash on Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard whose owner, a California-based developer and timber industry heir named George Schmidbauer, bemoaned his inability to access state funding to build an apartment building.

But now the dilapidated car wash has a new owner: the Black-run nonprofit Our Streets PDX, which purchased the property for $2.6 million last September and is seeking funding to build a 90-unit affordable housing complex in a neighborhood that’s been heavily affected by gentrification for decades.

“The project symbolizes more than just a building structure; it represents our commitment to creating opportunities and resilience within historically marginalized communities,” says Our Streets CEO and co-founder Buchi Arevalo-Asemota. “We aim to alleviate persistent housing inequalities that disproportionately affect low-income and BIPOC communities.”

Two government grants secured by the former owner for what he envisioned would be an affordable housing complex were inherited by Our Streets PDX for its plans, which are similar to what Schmidbauer’s were. Those two grants—$450,000 from the regional government Metro and $322,0000 from the state for energy efficiency—total just over $770,000 and provide a base for the project, Arevalo-Asemota says.

Our Streets was also the recipient of a $100,000 planning grant from the Portland Clean Energy Fund in 2022, through which the nonprofit’s plan to secure land for affordable housing evolved.

The nonprofit received a $1.7 million loan from the state that helps nonprofits, among others, purchase land that’s suited to host affordable housing.

The estimated cost of building the 90 affordable apartment units, Arevalo-Asemota says, is $30 million. The nonprofit and its development partner in the project, Danco Communities, are seeking additional funding before starting construction.

Schmidbauer purchased the property in 2020 for just over $1 million but for three years could not secure enough state funding to build the affordable apartment building he intended.

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