September 11, 2020

Building Long-Term Neighborhood Prosperity

Gresham, Oregon

Building Long-Term Neighborhood Prosperity

Lower-income neighborhoods often also lack amenities and opportunities, compounding inequities for their residents. Downtown Rockwood, an ambitious project in Gresham, near Portland, aims to change that for one neighborhood by not just building housing, but also creating community gathering places, providing space for community partners focused on education and job training, and constructing a grocery and food hall.

The Rockwood neighborhood in Gresham, a close-in suburb of Portland is highly diverse with more than 60 languages spoken, many foreign born and first-generation residents, and a rich array of cultures. It’s also a low-income neighborhood. Like many low-income neighborhoods, in Rockwood the inequities are far-reaching, and access to public space, amenities, educational and economic opportunities, and even healthy food is limited.  

In 2003, the Gresham-Rockwood Urban Renewal Area was established, targeting the neighborhood for additional investments. In 2005, the Gresham Redevelopment Commission purchased a former Fred Meyer supermarket property, but redevelopment stalled as private developers were unwilling to invest.

That changed when Roy Kim, the founder of Central Bethany Development, became interested in developing the site. Kim proposed a dense mixed-use development focused on building long-term prosperity by investing in public spaces and community empowerment. Downtown Rockwood not only meets the housing needs of the community, but it also creates healthy food options with a grocery and market hall, builds play areas and a splash pad, includes space for farmers markets and other community events, and provides office and classroom space for community organizations devoted to education, workforce training and small business development. Many of the elements included in Downtown Rockwood are taken for granted in higher-income neighborhoods. Anchor tenants include:

Roy Kim knew the project would require additional financing and that he’d need to find partners who were willing to consider the project’s social impacts in addition to its bottom line. Craft3, enthusiastic about the project’s many benefits, provided a $7 million New Markets Tax Credit allocation to finance the Rockwood Market Hall, while CapitalOne provided a $2 million allocation. The project received substantial funding from the City of Gresham and Craft3 issued a supporting loan for $3.5 million.

“New Markets Tax Credits were essential to getting this project off the ground,” Kim explains. “Without Craft3, this project just doesn’t happen. The rents in the area are too low for it to make sense with traditional development financing.” We’re eager to see the long-term impacts of this project and proud to have been a financial partner.