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Stephens Creek Crossing: a bridge to a better life

Home Forward breaks ground on new low-income housing development in Southwest Portland


There is a huge mud pit at the corner of 26th Avenue and Capitol Highway. It was once the site of the Hillsdale Terrace public housing community, and construction is now under way on Stephens Creek Crossing, a new affordable, environmentally sustainable and accessible apartment community that will take its place.

This rendering shows the proposed Stephens Creek Crossing apartment community now under construction at 26th Avenue and Capitol Highway.Hillsdale Terrace, and now Stephens Creek Crossing, was developed under the auspices of Home Forward, a public corporation providing affordable housing in Multnomah County.

“Hillsdale Terrace was built in the late 1960s. You probably never knew it was there,” said Home Forward Executive Director Steve Rudman. “Cinderblock construction really dates it for that period of time. Unfortunately, it was kind of in a bowl so the gradation was such that the bottom of the site going east would always have, like, a lake. It was difficult to maintain the property physically because there was a creeping mold problem.”

Concerned about the health and safety of residents, in 2009 Home Forward, then known as the Housing Authority of Portland, submitted an application to HOPE VI, a federal program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development intended to revitalize distressed public housing. Denied the grant, Home Forward met with residents, attended neighborhood association meetings and met with other stakeholders, realized that Hillsdale Terrace would need to be razed rather than merely renovated and submitted a second application in fall 2010, this one a success. In May 2011 Home Forward was awarded an $18.6 million HOPE VI grant to help fund Stephens Creek Crossing.

While 60 public housing units comprised Hillsdale Terrace, Stephens Creek Crossing will consist of 122 new affordable apartments — 13 units for households earning less than 60 percent of the median family income published by the Portland Housing Bureau and 109 units under Section 8, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s rent assistance voucher program. The new community will be complemented by an early childhood center with Head Start classrooms run by Neighborhood House, community gardens and seven Habitat for Humanity homes built nearby.

Rudman said Stephens Creek Crossing was developed to cater to lower-income populations, including young families and people of color.

“There are pockets of poverty in Southwest; this clearly is one,” Rudman said. “Just because you don’t have means doesn’t mean you can’t engage and look and aspire for more for yourself and your family.”

Rudman said Stephens Creek Crossing could benefit residents by being close to neighborhood schools and community centers, the Portland Community College Sylvania campus and job opportunities, and Portland State University downtown.

“The whole idea is creating what we call a community of opportunity,” he said. “We spent a lot of time and planning in terms of design and sustainability aspects, the focus on kids, the focus on jobs and opportunity and schools, and really want to enhance the connections to the surrounding neighborhood.”

Home Forward provided former Hillsdale Terrace residents with relocation services during construction. “Those families have the right to return, but not everybody does,” Rudman said. “If successful in moving to a new neighborhood and being part of that community, that is a success in our eyes.”

There will be 18 one-bedroom units, 22 two-bedroom units, 75 three-bedroom units and seven four-bedroom units when construction on Stephens Creek Crossing is completed in February 2014. Even if all 47 relocated families choose to move back, there will still be many units available for new residents to rent. Pamela Kambur, Home Forward community relations manager, said a waiting list will probably open in fall 2013.

Home Forward has been determined not to alienate the neighbors in Multnomah and Hillsdale, seeking input from them at numerous community advisory committee meetings over the past two years and emailing neighbors to notify them of temporary disruptions, such as suspended water service during the upcoming year and a half of construction.

“It’s not like everybody is 100 percent behind this,” Rudman said, “but by and large adjacent neighbors have been very involved and have had many opportunities to help shape this.”

Stephens Creek Crossing will be Portland’s third redevelopment effort made possible by a HOPE VI grant, with the second, Humboldt Gardens off Vancouver Avenue in North Portland completed in 2008, and the first, New Columbia in North Portland’s Portsmouth neighborhood, completed in 2006.

But with Stephens Creek Crossing’s family-oriented, community-minded concept, Rudman said, “We think it’s going to be the best yet.”