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It’s Thursday, Portland. And there’s something we didn’t tell you last week about Elizabeth Guerrero, the DACA recipient and East Portland food cart owner who we featured in our love letter to the city.
Guerrero is a tenant at Plaza 122, a Mercy Corps NW project that might just change the way Portland — and the country — thinks about economic development in low-income communities.
Read more about Guerrero and her food cart, La Osita, in our love letter to the city.
In the simplest sense, economic development is about bringing nice things — paved roads, public transit, modern housing, business plazas, etc. — to communities that don’t have them. But traditionally the agencies and organizations leading these projects haven’t given much thought to who owns the nice things — or how those nice things will affect a neighborhood’s culture and affordability.
As a result, development in U.S. cities has followed a familiar script: new amenities and infrastructure go in, quality of life improves, new neighbors and businesses flock to the neighborhood to enjoy that quality of life, competition for housing increases and rents go up, and eventually the people who were meant to benefit from all those nice things are priced out of their now gentrified neighborhood.
This cycle can feel inevitable, but if Mercy Corps NW’s Plaza 122 experiment is successful, it might show a way to break the cycle: giving locals the opportunity to invest in their own community’s development — and to build wealth in the process.
THE BIG EXPERIMENT AT PLAZA 122
Mercy Corps NW currently owns the Plaza 122 business hub in East Portland, but it’s starting to sell ownership stakes to local residents and pay out annual dividends.
To buy in, neighborhood residents first have to participate in a financial literacy class, which is available in Spanish, Vietnamese, Arabic, and Russian. After completing the course, they can make micro investments of $10 to $100 in the plaza each month. With enough of these investments, the community will eventually own Plaza 122 in full.
We sat down with Sven Gatchev, who helps oversee the Community Investment Trust program, to get the scoop.
How did the community investment trust program come together?
We asked people, ‘What do you want in your community? What’s missing? Are you investing and saving right now?’
People were very interested in actually owning something themselves, a piece of real estate, be it their home or even something else.
What’s the problem this is solving?
People were saying, “Hey, I want to be putting some money away somewhere, but I don’t really feel that I have a place to do so.”
Once you come out of our class, you now have a tangible opportunity to own something at a very affordable rate and you can actually be putting away money safely. Another upside is that [residents] are connected with the community and with the performance of this thriving, diverse plaza.
What’s next for this program?
This is the pilot and the first of its kind. We want to make sure that we offer a model that can be replicated by other organizations, not only here in Portland, but across Oregon and the nation.
HERE'S WHAT'S GOING ON IN YOUR CITY 🕵️
These kids though! Is it too soon to dub 2018 the Year of the Teenager? From Parkland to Portland, high-school students are organizing rallies, mobilizing voters, and moving the needle on big-time issues. The latest example: an investigation by Lincoln HS student journalists into their school’s response to allegations of sexual harassment. (OPB)
No, it’s not deja vu. City Council has reversed course on another major housing decision. Last month it was height restrictions along the waterfront. Now it’s the Fremont Place Apartments project, which City Council rejected unanimously in a preliminary vote last month. Yesterday, Mayor Wheeler and two commissioners voted to give the project new life — but its developer still has work to do to earn final approval. (Willamette Week)
Wild Wild Willamette Week. If you binged Netflix’s Wild Wild Country miniseries and are now craving more Rajneeshee drama in your life, you’re in luck. Willamette Week dug through its archives and resurfaced a pair of incredible features from 1984, when journalist Richard Fleming spent ten days living in the Central Oregon commune. (Willamette Week)
Portland’s best karaoke. Chopsticks, The Alibi, and Voicebox all made it into the Mercury’s guide to Portland’s best karaoke spots. But we have a hunch some readers will be outraged by one of the list’s notable snubs: Pizza Schmizza. (Portland Mercury)
Blazers vs. TBD. With four games to go, the Blazers know they’ll be in the playoffs, but they have no idea who they’ll play in the first round. KGW’s 3-on-3 podcast crew agrees that a matchup with Oklahoma City would be best for Portland — and that Utah is the worst-case scenario. (KGW)
EVENTS CALENDAR 📅
✍ Find creative support with the Westside Writing Group (NW | Pearl)
💡 Submit your big idea to TedxPortland(Downtown)
🏗 Catch a panel, pitch, or mixer at Startup Week – through Saturday (Portland)
📱 Hear Kara Swisher, Ron Wyden, and others at TechFestNW – through Friday (Downtown)
🏢 Talk ‘code switching’ with women of color in business (Downtown)
🎗 Get help and support dealing with cancer (NE | Lloyd Center)
🎙 Catch a Live Wire taping at the Alberta Rose Theater (NE | Alberta)
🎭 See Beauty and the Beast told with puppets – through Apr. 29 (SE | Burnside)
🛍 Shop local Etsy sellers at a vintage pop-up (SE | Division)
🎥 Watch a doc about surfing and sexism (NE | Kerns)
🎽 Race for a cash prize at the Dogwood Dash (Milwaukie)
🍺 Celebrate Belgian Beer Day with The Abbey (NW | Alphabet)
🇬🇷 Celebrate Greek Easter with Olympia Provisions (NW | Slabtown)
🎣 See fly fishing on the big screen (NW | Pearl)
Going to one of these? Send us a pic or tag #bridgeliner on Instagram to be featured.
A SPRING FITNESS GUIDE UPDATE
ICYMI, contributor Sarah Scrivens is helping us find all the coolest ways to break free of our winter funks and get fit again in time for summer.
Last week, Sarah went to Firelight Yoga and got one heck of a workout with instructor Katie DiPasquale.
And yesterday she reminded us that all the best workout regimens make time for R&R and a glass of wine, especially on your birthday. 🎉
Happy birthday, Sarah! And happy Thursday, Portland. If you know a great yoga studio, workout group, exercise class, or other local gem that should go in our fitness guide, hit reply and tell us what you love about it.
Otherwise, we’ll see you tomorrow. 👋