PDX developer proposes $100M homeless campus

Proposed facility north of Fremont Bridge would have room for 1,400 people

Developer Homer Williams hopes to build a homeless campus on this site just north of the Fremont Bridge. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Well-known Portland developer Homer Williams wants to build a $100 million homeless campus just north of the Fremont Bridge.

For now, it’s just an idea. But development company Williams & Dame hopes to garner enough support for the project to get a financing plan in place by next year.

Developer Homer Williams hopes to build a $100 million homeless campus in Portland. (KOIN)
Developer Homer Williams hopes to build a $100 million homeless campus in Portland. (KOIN)

“This is an effort that requires the churches, the foundations, the businesses, the community, the city, the county and the state,” Williams told KOIN 6 News. “It’s not going away… the [homeless] problem is not going away.”

Williams says he wants the campus built on 15 acres where Terminal One used to sit. That property, which has a market value of $8.6 million, will be for sale this summer.

The homeless campus would have room for about 1,400 people. Williams says he’s modeling the project after Haven for Hope, a homeless facility in San Antonio, Texas.

“Their homelessness off the street has gone down 80%,” Williams said.

He’s pitching his plan to city leaders like Mayor Charlie Hales, whose office isn’t completely sold on the idea just yet due to its hefty $100 million price tag.

“The cost is a little bit unsettling… it’s a lot of money,” Hales’ Chief of Staff Josh Alpert said. “We’re doing a lot right now with the money that we already have.”

But Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler is giving the idea his full support, calling it a “promising alternative” to Portland’s ongoing homeless challenge. He even sent a staff member to tour Haven for Hope with Williams in San Antonio.

Developing consultant Don Mazziotti says he doesn’t see any major obstacles with the plan, although it won’t necessarily be an easy task to accomplish.

And there’s still a long way to go. The proposed site is currently zoned for industrial use, which would have to change. The plan also calls for raising around $60 million in the private sector, the rest of the funds coming from government.

Williams says he’s already raised $250,000 from the business community. He hopes to have official costs and a financing plan for the homeless campus by early 2017.

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