‘Mercado’ comes to Foster Road

Find out who’s behind this Hispanic-styled new outer East Portland marketplace, and why they expect it to succeed …

It looks like a used car lot now, but by New Year’s, this should be the site of the bustling new Portland Mercado.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Hopes were high, on the afternoon of May 15, when about 70 people gathered in the parking lot of the former “Metro Auto Wholesale” lot on SE Foster Road at 72nd Avenue, situated along the border of Mt. Scott-Arleta and Foster-Powell neighborhoods.

As city and county officials joined the project supporters gathered for the groundbreaking of the Portland Mercado, Hacienda Community Development Corporation Executive Director Victor Merced spoke with East Portland News.

At the Portland Mercado groundbreaking, Hacienda CDC Executive Director Victor Merced stands with Board Member Ellen Wyoming with Metro, Treasurer Megdy Khoury with Wells Fargo Commercial Banking and Chair Guillermo Sandoval with Banner Bank.

“In addition to providing about 400 units of affordable housing,” Merced said, “our organization’s ‘Micro Mercantes’ initiative continues to be a social enterprise incubator that empowers and collaborates with hard-working Latino culinary micro-entrepreneurs.”

In addition to operating a commercial food preparation kitchen, part of the Micro Mercantes mission is to provide training to immigrant entrepreneurs, Merced said. “We teach them financial literacy, how to sell their products, how to obtain a loan – everything needed to start and succeed at running a small business.”

Hacienda CDC Executive Director Victor Merced welcomes everyone to the site of the new Portland Mercado.

So, in addition to providing additional kitchen space, the Portland Mercado will provide a “retail location” for small businesses that now primarily provide catering services and sell food at outdoor markets.

“It won’t be only Mexican food,” Merced explained. “Yes, there will be tacos and empanadas. But there’ll also be food from different parts of Latin America, including Cuba. We’re also planning on having a little bakery, as well as a “bottle shop” selling beer and wine.”

Multnomah County Commissioner Judy Shiprack talks with project leaders.

Before the formal program began, Multnomah County Commissioner Judy Shiprack commented, “I’m happy to see this coming, because I both live in, and represent, this neighborhood. I am so excited to see this piece of property being put to such a fantastic community use.”

It’s a signal that is being sent to the community as a whole that diversity is welcomed here, Shiprack added. “This total totally fits in with the ‘Equity Lens’ we’ve implemented with all the communities Multnomah County serves. We’re benefiting from having this amazing blend of cultures right here in the neighborhood.”

Portland Development Commission Executive Director Patrick Quinton says the Bureau has a “high level of confidence” in this undertaking.

Portland Development Commission Executive Director Patrick Quinton said the Portland Mercado “represents a very effective model for community economic development.

“It is a project that grows out of a collective interest in helping small businesses succeed,” Quinton added. We think this is a great model that can be replicated elsewhere.”
PDC is participating significantly, Quinton remarked. “We helped throughout the planning process, grant funding, and developing the concept and the business plan. Our total investment in this project is over $1 million. And we’re extending a long-term lease of this property we own to Hacienda, for $1 per year.”

Having been involved throughout the process has given them a “great deal of confidence” in the project, Quinton added. “When an organization goes through this kind of process, and usually they come up with a refined product. We have a lot of confidence in their success.”

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales greets supporters at the event.

While people continued to gather, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales commented, “This is a big deal for Portland and for our Latino community. It’s part of Portland’s culture to support our small businesses. And now, we’re supporting our Latino community with this project.”

Merced and other Hacienda Board members took turns introducing dignitaries and supporters of the organization, and this project.

When Mayor Hales was invited up to speak, he said, in part, “When there are positive activities on a visible corner, the police have less problems to deal with. At the same time, we’re providing a place for the community to build businesses and have a place to socialize.

Mayor Hales says the Portland Mercado is destined to become a “business paradise”.

“We need to repeat this kind of success story, again and again, throughout the city,” Hales extolled. “This project will become a landmark location for our city. It’s like the opposite of the Joni Mitchell song – in this case, we’re tearing down a parking lot and putting up a ‘business paradise’.”

With that, representatives donned hardhats and grabbed shovels, to ceremonially turn over a patch of dirt in front of the building.

Shovels in hand, officials break ground for the Portland Mercado.

Officials said they expect the grand opening by the end of the year. Follow the progress at their website: CLICK HERE.

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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