Tag Archives: St. John’s

Interstate and beyond: Lessons of history resonate as the city prepares to expand Urban Renewal Area

by Jake Thomas

Roslyn Hill can no longer quite visualize the neighborhood she grew up in. Probably because it doesn’t exist anymore.

While in the third grade, in the mid 1950s, her family had to leave their neighborhood in Northeast Portland to make way for development that would become the Memorial Coliseum.

The construction of the stadium has been part of the vexed history between the city and North and Northeast Portland. But the 64-year-old African American real estate developer with greying dreadlocks seems hardly bitter when recalling how her family was forced from their home. Instead she seems more focused on the commercial properties she’s been developing in Northeast Portland since moving back to the city in 1990 after a stint in the Bay Area.

Hill has been part of a renewed economic interest in Alberta Street and the surrounding area and has developed properties into coffee shops and art galleries. Today, the once gritty and crime-ridden street that is now better known for its eateries, boutiques and the creative types that have been drawn to it in recent decades.

Called the “Queen of Alberta” by some, Hill hopes that the revitalization will help transform the area into a vibrant neighborhood that retains its multicultural character while drawing newcomers who are genuinely vested in it.

But, according to Hill, Alberta isn’t reaching its full commercial potential and large chunks of it remain “underdeveloped” and could use the help of a powerful city agency that has big plans for the street and other parts of North and Northeast Portland that have followed a similar trajectory.

The Portland Development Commission, the city’s economic development arm, has had an uneasy relationship with North and Northeast Portland, a part of town that has been the heart of Portland’s African American community and has suffered from racially motivated disinvestment in the past. Continue reading