New Lents Town Center project breaks ground

Find out why neighbors, city officials, and leaders of the Asian Health and Service Center expressed joy at the celebration …

Retired Multnomah County Commissioner Judy Shiprack spends a moment with Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury – as they greet Anita Chan and Asian Health and Service Center Clinical Care Specialist Gemma Kim at the site of the organization’s new building, in the Lents neighborhood.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Yet another new building is now under construction in outer East Portland – signaled by a gala groundbreaking ceremony for the coming new Asian Health and Service Center (AHSC) on the morning of April 22.

A heavy morning rainstorm decreased to a very light mist by the time the 11:00 a.m. program got underway, at the site – 9035 SE Foster Road.

Serving up a hot lunch for celebrants is Aroon Onchumchit of Thai Fresh catering.

“Today is a special and exciting day, because this groundbreaking ceremony is the next step toward our having a permanent ‘home’ here in the Lents neighborhood,” smiled AHSC Chief Operating Officer Christine Lau, as guests were dining at the Thai food buffet.

Presently the organization is headquartered about 56 blocks west, on SE Powell Boulevard at 34th Avenue, Lau explained to East Portland News. “Even though we started with a 6,000 ft.² building, then moved into our current 12,000 ft.² location, it is still much too small,” she said.

Getting ready for the groundbreaking are AHSC Chief Operating Officer Christine Lau; Chief Executive Officer Holden Leung; and Board Chairman Dr. Erik Szeto – all with shovels in hand.

“Based on the census, we know that population is growing here, especially in the Asian community,” Lau pointed out. “There is also an increasing need for our many senior programs; and, our mental health program requires a lot of space.”

Presently, AHSC serves about 10,000 clients annually, she observed.

A multitude of people came to witness the groundbreaking for the new service center.

“Monday through Friday, we have different daily activities in Asian languages – such as Cantonese, Chinese, Mandarin Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese,” Lau enumerated. “And then, we also have staff who help people apply for things like the Oregon Health Plan or, a while ago, for marketplace insurance.

“Right now, we’re working with the Oregon ‘I Am Healthy’ program for children, to help them get healthcare services. So, in addition to providing direct services, we also provide wraparound services to help the people get what they need,” Lau said.

“At the same time we want to be a bridge between the Asian and American cultures,” continued Lau. “While we are helping toi introduce Asian cultures to American society, we also help Asian immigrants who emigrate to this country learn things they need to know.”

Members of Lee’s Association Dragon & Lion Dance provide a colorful opening for the groundbreaking ceremony.

This location in the Lents neighborhood will work out well for AHSC, Lau opined. “There is nothing like the social services we provide currently in this neighborhood.

“When we started to explore the idea of coming to Lents, people in the neighborhood association, they told us that this is really a wonderful area for us, and that that Portland Development Commission would work with us, which they did,” Lau said.

One of several ‘wins’ for Lents, Mayor says
“As the formal program was about to get underway, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler stopped to speak with East Portland News about the significance of this project to the city.

“This is the culmination of a partnership that is been in the works for years,” Wheeler began. “Is it is an acknowledgment that the Asian community is one of the fastest growing communities in our city, and they will soon be served by a state-of-the-art facility that provides culturally-specific services, not just to the Asian community, but to the entire neighborhood.

“I see this is a great example of outer East Portland, and the Lents neighborhood in particular, coming together with the city, the county, and AHSC, to become one of the best things that I can see happening for this community,” Wheeler added.

It’s more than the fulfillment long-delayed promises made for the Lents neighborhood, Wheeler stated. “I see this as a down payment; an unmitigated, clear ‘win’ for the Lents community. But let’s be honest, the Lents community needs several more wins. Let’s consider this an ‘act of good faith’ and ‘down payment’ on more, similar wins in the future,” the Mayor said.

Lents Neighborhood Association Chair Judy Low and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler pause for a photo.

“The Asian Health and Service Center is a ‘bridge between East and West’ Portland in many ways, said Lents Neighborhood Association Chair Judy Low, speaking for herself, and not for the association.

“The first of its kind, the AHSC brings equitable health care access to the Multnomah County service area, provides a multigenerational and multicultural hub for the region’s growing and diversifying population, and establishes a social and cultural events center in Portland.

“We are pleased that the Asian Health and Service Center chose the Lents Town Center as their permanent home, and we are proud to welcome them to Lents,” Low smiled.

AHSC Chief Executive Officer Holden Leung welcomes guests, elected officials, dignitaries and guests, saying, “Thank you for coming here to witness this groundbreaking, as we set a new milestone – writing a ‘new page’ for the Asian Health and Service Center”.

Planning began for the $14.8 million, 30,000 square foot facility in 2014, in collaboration with the Portland Development Commission; and the project is estimated to be complete in spring 2018.

When complete, the building will include treatment rooms for behavioral and physical healthcare, small group rooms for adult classes and therapeutic group programs, and a 6,000 square foot multipurpose hall to be used for health education, exercise classes, social gatherings, and cultural events.

Artists conception of the new Asian Health and Service Center by Holst Architecture, via PDC.

© 2017 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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