After months of site preparation, contractors and planners for the Humboldt Gardens public housing project say construction is coming along on schedule. A ceremonial "wall-raising" was held on July 27 to mark the start of building construction at the site.
Calvin Jackson, owner of CJ Jackson Construction, said the partnership between his company and Walsh Construction has provided the opportunity to grow his business leaps and bounds.
"Most of my jobs I did out of the cab of my truck," Jackson said. "Now I've got a trailer."
The partnership between the two companies has been touted as an example of what a large, established contractor can do to help a smaller company gain invaluable experience. It has also been used as an example of how the Housing Authority of Portland, who owns the project, can help increase the number of minority, women and emerging small businesses on public projects. At Humboldt Gardens, located at the corner of Vancouver Avenue and Alberta Street, minority workers number 35 percent of the total workforce, according to Jackson. And for his company, minorities number nearly 48 percent.
The business partnership between CJ Jackson and Walsh that began at the New Columbia project also promises to spawn a trickle-down effect. Jackson is currently mentoring another budding construction company – Faison Construction.
"I'm giving him all the help I can offer," says Jackson.
Lee Moore, vice chair for the Housing Authority, said the key to being successful in Portland is partnerships. And the key to Humboldt Gardens' and New Columbia's success is making sure the mistakes of the past aren't repeated.
"We don't want to perpetuate economic ghettos," he said. "As you drive through New Columbia, you can't tell which units are rentals and which are homeownership. … Ultimately, these projects are about people."
Humboldt Gardens is the second Housing Authority project to receive a federal HOPE VI grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The $17 million project builds upon the lot formerly occupied by the Iris Court cluster, an aging public housing project that was torn down in February. According to the Housing Authority, the design of Humboldt Gardens will lead to a safer environment and a combination of very low-income and moderate income families. The plan will also create 21 offsite homeownership opportunities for households at or below 80 percent of the median family income.