Mayor Charlie Hales vowed Monday to ask Trader Joe’s to revive its plans for a new grocery store on Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and he said he’ll propose an additional $20 million in city urban renewal funding in the area for affordable housing.

The mayor announced his plans after sitting down with leaders of the newly formed African-American Leadership Forum, who had criticized the Portland Development Commission’s deal to provide land for the Trader Joe’s at a sharp discount. The African-American Leadership Forum had demanded more affordable housing in the area as a way to stem gentrification in Portland’s traditional black community in inner Northeast Portland.

When the project became controversial, the Southern California-based grocer announced it was pulling out of the project.

Hales and City Commissioner Dan Saltzman sat down Monday with about 50 community leaders to discuss the dispute and seek a way forward.

The city’s Interstate Corridor Urban Renewal Area has earmarked $16.6 million for affordable housing in the area, but Hales wants to find a way to boost that to $36.6 million.

“We’re in this together,” Hales said after the meeting. “Step one is to get this popular grocer to come back to the table. That will mean jobs. Step two is our commitment for more affordable housing. That will keep people from being displaced. Step three will be a long-term commitment to the economic vitality of the Interstate Corridor area. And that’s going to take all of us as a team.”

Hales’ commitment is a “necessary step forward,” said Michael Alexander, executive director of the Urban League of Portland. “This community has not been well served, historically. We need a new history. And we start writing that history today.”


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