Oregon leaders, Albina Vision Trust applaud big investment in reversing ‘shameful’ disruption of Black neighborhood


State and federal leaders are casting a vote of confidence in a Portland nonprofit working to revitalize a historically Black neighborhood that’s been targeted by decades of racist development policies.

The Albina Vision Trust helped the Oregon Department of Transportation win $450 million in federal funding to advance an Interstate 5 expansion project. The Trust wants to build covers over the patch of highway running through North and Northeast Portland, where the neighborhood along the east side of the Willamette River was decimated for construction of I-5 in the 1950s and 60s. The Portland Bureau of Transportation also garnered $38 million in federal funding for projects in the nearby Broadway-Weidler corridor.

“This major federal investment is going to pave the way for a bright future for Northeast Portland and our entire city,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said during a news conference at the Albina Vision Trust office near the Moda Center. “And most important, it is great to see that the east side of Portland is finally getting some well-deserved recognition.”

Wyden called past decisions to tear down Black-owned homes and businesses for the construction of I-5 “shameful,” saying it led to a loss of generational wealth for Portland’s Black community.

Meanwhile, the Albina Vision Trust’s goals for the area represent a stark contrast from the past. Development will focus on affordable housing, creating economic opportunities for Black Portlanders and building sustainable gathering places. Wyden applauded the vision alongside fellow Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Portland-area Democratic Reps. Suzanne Bonamici and Earl Blumenauer.

“This infusion of nearly a half billion dollars in federal funding is a momentous win for us here in Lower Albina,” said JT Flowers, strategic communications for Albina Vision Trust. “But it is not the sum of our work.”

The highway covers are part of a larger expansion project for that part of I-5 that has not yet won funding from the state Legislature — and lawmakers aren’t scheduled to meet again until next year. Gov. Tina Kotek has gone back and forth in her push for considering a toll to help pay for the work, ultimately putting a pause on the discussion.

Meanwhile, Flowers said Albina Vision Trust is moving forward with other projects. It recently broke ground on its inaugural 94-unit affordable housing development. Also, Portland Public Schools recently indicated it would transfer its administrative building to the trust for future affordable housing projects.

“This is really the revitalization of not just a singular development, not just the highway cover, but of a zip code,” Flowers said.