Lents Town Center project gets underway

See what happened, when outer East Portland neighbors and City officials gathered to break ground for the ‘9101 Foster’ building …

Neighbors, and those from organizations and City Bureaus, mingle with City officials at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new building coming to Lents Town Center.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

On Sunday, October 23, people cheered as ground was broken to start construction of the first major project planned for the transformation of Lents Town Center.

Lifelong neighbor, and Lents Neighborhood Association Board Member, Ray Hites was one of the well-wishers at the event.

“We’ve had so many ‘plans’ over the years – starting with the ROSE CDC Lents Target Area Plan, followed by the Lents Neighborhood Plan, and then the Lents Urban Renewal Plan,” Hites ticked off, on his fingers.

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales spends a moment with lifelong Lents resident, Ray Hites.

“Now that it looks like we’re done with the planning, and it’s time to build,” Hites grinned.

The most important thing that the events of the day meant to him, Hites said: “At long last, we’re going to have a vital neighborhood business district once again!

“In the 1970s, when they put in the I-205 freeway interchange, it cut through downtown Lents, closed stores, killed businesses, and removed parking,” Hites explained. “It’s nice to see that we are finally redeveloping the area with a lot of storefronts, and that a lot of people going to be living down here. It really is ‘in keeping’ with the vision that we had, all the way back in the past.”

Saying she was cheered by the coming development in the area, Lents Neighborhood Association Chair Judy Low spoke with officials.

During the groundbreaking ceremony, Lents Neighborhood Association Chair Judy Low remarked that the beginning of construction could be likened to planting bamboo: It takes a long time to get established, but when it does, it flourishes.

“I’m really excited to see this happening,” Low told East Portland News. “Seeing this means that we, as a neighborhood, have a lot of say in what will be happening here. Our neighborhood has traditionally been left out of many decisions and involvement.

“I’m hoping that, when they see this construction, and the development of ‘the 9101’, it will help Lents citizens to become more involved,” Low added. “We have a lot more development coming up in the next few months.”

This rendering of the 9101 Foster building is courtesy of PDC and Hacker Architects.

Telling more about the 9101 Foster building, designed by Hacker Architects and Williams & Dame Development, was Portland Development Commission (PDC) Executive Director Kimberly Branam.

“Today, we are realizing plans that have been under way for quite some time now,” said Branam, who was named to her post in August after being second-in-command under former executive director Patrick Quinton.

“This property was acquired nearly 20 years ago, part of more than $90 million PDC has invested in Lents Town Center Urban Renewal Area,” Branam said.

Williams & Dame Development worked up plans for the 9101 Foster project, a four-story apartment building made up of 54 market-rate and affordable housing units, designed as a U-shaped structure that wraps around a south-facing courtyard.

“Bremik Construction will be constructing the project, but PDC staff will oversee the construction, and then own and operate the facility,” Branam explained.

Officials, and lots of kids, break ground for the newest building to come to Lents Town Center. Photo by Brian Worley

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales looked aglow with delight as he greeted people at the event.

“This is a long-awaited day in Lents,” Hales said. “A lot of neighborhood activists have worked to get to this point, where we are finally carrying out the plan that this neighborhood has dreamed about, and put on paper. I’m thrilled.”

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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