“The permanence it lends our operation is really representative of us digging our roots into the ground and concretizing our presence in a very tangible and physical way in this space, which I think will continue to spill over into the work as well,” JT Flowers, who oversees communications and development at AVT, told The Skanner.
AVT executive director Winta Yohannes called the new headquarters "an act of reclamation."
“This move is about permanence, about us continuing to drag this vision out of the collective imagination of our community and into the physical reality of the built world,” she said.
“We are here to stay and build.”
The announcement comes fast on the heels of a groundbreaking last month for Albina One, AVT’s 94-unit development of affordable housing and community space that aims to bring displaced Black residents into a heavily gentrified, but historically Black, neighborhood. Albina One will be sited at 1771 N. Flint Ave.
Of the 94 housing units of the Albina One development, 78 will be made eligible through the North/Northeast Preference Policy, which gives priority to potential tenants who have generational ties to the area. The other 16 units will be made available to those with Section 8 vouchers.
The $63.5 million project has named Black-owned Colas construction as its general contractor. Once completed, Albina One will partner with Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center and Rosemary Anderson High School to offer members of the community family support, mentoring, job training and career placement.
“I don’t think our community is lost,” Flowers said. “I think that’s actually one thing we’ve managed almost magically to keep intact. Our community is still very connected on a spiritual and familial and cultural level. But what we have lost is our neighborhood, our common space to convene and hold community together. I think what’s lost more than anything is the proximity that lends itself to the maintenance and upkeep of community.”
The Aug. 20 groundbreaking celebration was held at Portland Public School Headquarters (501 N Dixon St.) near the Albina One site.
“We chose it because of what that site represents,” Flowers said, “not only to us as a redevelopment entity – we secured right of first offer, right of first refusal on that 10-acre PPS headquarters site – but also because of what it represents to our community historically. That site has been the home of so many battles for Black children, going all the way back to when elders in our community were fighting for busing, fighting just to make sure Black children had the same access to education as their white counterparts. And over the course of decades, what was once a battle ground has turned into fertile soil where we can begin to imagine what it looks like to plant the seeds of tomorrow.”
“We think of Albina One as a cornerstone for a much longer endeavor,” Flowers said. “This is the beginning of 20, 30 years of redevelopment work that hopefully will result in the creation of a healthy, vibrant and abundant neighborhood. We know that abundant neighborhoods have a healthy mix of diversity of all things, whether it’s people from different backgrounds, different economic backgrounds, different job opportunities, different recreational opportunities. Our goal is to really create an environment and bustling space that was built with the intention of safeguarding, protecting and amplifying the brilliance and joy of the Black community.”
A vision of that community is built into the development’s plans, with renderings showing colorful murals at the entrance and common areas meant to foster neighborhood connection.
“We’re focused on recreating that common gathering space for folks to come together, bask in each other’s brilliance and really live and learn from each other on a daily basis,” Flowers said.
"“The building itself is seven stories, the top and bottom floor will both be community spaces, so giant, really well lit spaces for people to gather and convene, work together and play. There’ll be green space both in courtyards and up on the roof, we’ll have naturally growing edible plants that the community has access to.
“Everything has been designed with the intention of creating a green urban ecosystem that nurtures life rather than restricts it, so there’s natural light coming into the units, and overall, they are a stone’s throw away from the Willamette River. So the folks living in this building hopefully, in 15, 20 years’ time, will be able to walk out their front door and in three minutes be at the waterfront park that expands from the Broadway Bridge to the Steel Bridge.”
He added, “Talking about what it will be in 2025 almost won’t do justice to what the space will be once the district-level work is underway.”
For more information, visit https://albinavision.org.