PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The proposed development of a vacant lot at Northeast MLK and Alberta touched off a storm of protest from people who say gentrification and development is making it increasingly harder for African-Americans to maintain roots in an area they’ve long considered home.
At a community meeting put on by the Portland African American Leadership Forum Tuesday night, the discussion heated up at times. But for nearly everyone, the big concern was about newcomers bulldozing the minority character and history of the neighborhood.
The Portland African American Leadership Forum consistently said they were not opposed specifically to Trader Joe’s, “but rather in the City giving away such a large amount of money, without any public benefit and their overall lack of accountability for the gentrification and displacement of African Americans from our community,” they said in a recent release.
John Washington told KOIN 6 News his area looks different than it used to. “For the most part the way things are changing very rapidly, it’s actually pushing a lot of people out,” he said.
The Trader Joe’s that was proposed for NE MLK and Alberta threatened even more people living in the area.
Teletha Benjamin said she didn’t object to a Trader Joe’s, but she did say putting a big store like that in the middle of a historically African-American community — without enough input from the neighborhood — hit a very sensitive nerve.
“The nerve was the history of how decisions were made in this general area of the city,” Benjamin said.
For starters Benjamin and others said the city gave Trader Joe’s a sweetheart deal for city owned property. That was a deal many people in the crowd said would not have been extended to a minority-owned neighborhood business.
A representative from the Portland Development Commission was at the meeting, but would not talk about the city’s deal the sell the property to Trader Joe’s.
Neighbors weighed in with what they would like to see in a new development at that spot. The stated goal of the PAALF is ” to have housing for those who have been moved out of the neighborhood to be able to return,” although they want to hear if the neighborhood residents favor a community center, a grocery store or a business space.
Those ideas will be forwarded to Mayor Charlie Hales later this month.