Trader Joe’s’ early February announcement that it would not site a store in one of two buildings of a 40,000-square-foot project at Northeast Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and Alberta Street prompted Portland’s African American Leadership Forum (PAALF) to say the media misunderstood earlier Forum statements.
“Our advocacy was never about whether or not Trader Joe’s should be on the property,” the PAALF has since stated, “but rather was focused on combating the City of Portland, and most specifically the PDC (Portland Development Commission), in regards to their back-door decision making, lack of transparency and lack of accountability to their use of tax payer dollars.”
PAALF executive director Cyreena Boston Ashby told the Star, “it is unfortunate that Trader Joe’s got the impression that the community did not want them, as this was never stated by our organization and is certainly not the case. It is also unfortunate that they did not communicate directly with PAALF on our position. It was falsely claimed that PAALF did not want them. That is simply not true.”
Ashby said the Forum advocated for affordable housing above and/or adjacent to Trader Joe’s to ensure that low-income residents have space in Portland in the wake of drastically increasing rental rates and rising property values, making the area unaffordable for some potential residents and businesses. She noted the PAALF’s position was upheld by Mayor Charlie Hales and that there are other projects where housing has been included. Hayles called Trader Joe’s decision a “loss” and added, “It is too soon to say what comes next for this site. We will work with the full range of stakeholders to determine the next steps. And we remain committed to working with stakeholders to find projects for this and other development sites throughout the city.”
The Forum’s stance came on the heels of California-based developer Majestic Realty’s announcement that Portland’s Colas Construction had been named general contractor for the project, a move hailed by two contractor groups:
“The selection of an African-American prime contractor with close ties to Northeast Portland opens the door for minority contractors to participate on a large project in the heart of our neighborhood,” said Tony Jones, Metropolitan Contractors Improvement Partnership executive director.
“It’s a great step forward for our community,” said James Posey, National Association of Minority Contractors-Oregon board member and co-founder, and Workhorse Construction, Inc. owner. “It means that the project will be built by people from the neighborhoods and shows the world that African-American contractors can deliver large projects that hire significant number of minority contractors and workers.”
Ashby told the Star that the Forum invites residents to attend visioning sessions to discuss plans for the property located at Northeast Alberta Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. Times and dates for the sessions are on the Forum’s website, www.aalfnw.org.