After contentious community debate and a shifting of anchor tenants, construction began last fall on the long-vacant parcel of land at Northeast Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. and Northeast Alberta Street.
The 20,000 square foot site, called Alberta Commons, is being developed by Majestic Realty and African American, family-owned Colas Construction as the general contractor. Completion is slotted for next month.
With Colorado-based Natural Grocers at the helm, the development is dedicating 50 percent of the lot’s commercial space as affordable for local businesses from underserved communities.
To help fill those spots, Alberta Commons is participating in Prosper Portland’s Affordable Commercial Tenanting Program, which will secure business space for four to five successful applicants at reduced rent through its master lease with Majestic.
In addition, the selected businesses will be offered a tenant improvement package to fund construction costs, as well as technical assistance provided by Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO), a nonprofit which grants micro-loans to minority entrepreneurs.
“We’re looking for businesses that are going to be a great fit for Alberta Commons and be a great fit together,” said Prosper Portland program manager Alison Wicks. “But businesses that don’t end up in these retail spaces, there’s definitely more opportunities within North and Northeast Portland, so we’ll be continuing to work with them.”
Prosper Portland is set to begin reviewing prospective tenants on Oct. 13. Afterwards, additional applications will be accepted on a rolling, first-come first-serve basis until all spaces are filled. The development agency is also working with a retail tenanting subcommittee to help steer the selection process.
Created to address Portland’s dramatic uptick in retail rents – exacerbated by a decrease in vacancies – the tenanting program is an attempt to compensate for the loss of several vulnerable businesses that had fallen prey to gentrification in the area.
Its focus, in particular, is to boost businesses from underrepresented communities – mainly those owned by women, people of color, and especially African Americans – by helping them promote an equitable local economy.
“The business mix is also important,” Wicks told The Skanner, which means the agency is looking for “an active destination business or something that’s going to add a needed service to the area.”
The program is in alignment with the North/Northeast Community Development Initiative Action Plan which, through the guidance of communities of color, uses tax increment funds to create economic opportunities for businesses, property owners and residents in the Interstate Corridor.
That’s why Alberta Commons, in the heavily gentrified Northeast neighborhood, is an ideal model for the program, according to Prosper Portland.
“It was driven by the community,” said Anne Mangan, senior communications coordinator at Prosper Portland. “They wanted to have this kind of a program in place for Alberta Commons ahead of time, for disadvantaged businesses and business that could get a foothold here that otherwise might not be able to.”
In addition to the Alberta development, the Affordable Commercial Tenanting Program is also available at two sites in Lents Town Center in southeast Portland.