PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Evolving from a strip club to an affordable housing complex, a new project in Portland’s Cully neighborhood opened Thursday – and could serve as a model to state leaders for future developments.
Las Adelitas is one of the first projects that brought in funding from both state and local governments, and it even took changing the state constitution to make that happen.
Originally, the housing complex’s location was also considered commercial land, meaning it needed a zoning change to become a residential building.
Hacienda CDC’s CEO Ernesto Fonseca had bought the land without development or funding in place. Commercial developments came forward, but the creation of 142 affordable units was his priority – even if it meant changing state law to do it.
Allowing public money to be used for projects on private land was legalized in 2018 to clear the way for future opportunities, including projects like Las Adelitas.
Several different groups funded the housing complex conversion, including the Portland Housing Bureau, Oregon Lottery funds and private investors.
Pooling that money together created more resources for the $28 million building, and Fonseca hopes that these money sources can now be coordinated to streamline the process of future builds.
“The city and the state need to collaborate together, instead of having competitive processes have project ready processes meaning that if you’re ready to build something we should work with you directly,” Fonseca said.
Six years passed between the property’s purchase and its opening. Part of that was waiting on Oregon voters to approve the private-public partnerships for affordable housing.
Fonseca thinks that streamlining funding would have helped speed up the process too. Ultimately, he said the project is meant to uplift the Cully neighborhood.
“A community asset isn’t just your vision, it’s what the community wants. We had to build something that was going to uplift the spirits of this community as a whole,” Fonseca said. “This building represents a lot of things but housing is for everyone.”
Andrea Bell, the director of Oregon Housing and Community Services, said the changes came because the community rallied for housing.
“This was really made possible by the community making clear what they needed, the community making clear not only the need for affordable housing but the type of project that needs to be here in this neighborhood,” Bell said.
And Las Adelitas is just the beginning.
“We’re going to have to start looking at how we can finance to focus on readiness, how we can get involved in supporting projects from conception early on to really understand what the gaps are,” Bell said.
Gov. Tina Kotek said projects like this are part of bridging the gap from housing shortage to housing security.
“A community vision that says we are going to change our community, we’re going to take something away that shouldn’t be here and create something that is not only housing but change the lives of generations to come,” Kotek said.