The air of excitement was palpable last week as a row of stakeholders wielding gold shovels lined up for speeches and photos at the groundbreaking of The Rose Apartments.
The mood was festive, with green and orange balloons adorning the lampposts of recently-constructed NE Everett Court, a local street connection built as part of the overall project.
Rose developer Gordon Jones kicked off the speeches by referencing the many hurdles the project had to overcome, joking that he thought about re-naming it the Lazarus Project.
Jones began planning for The Rose, a two-building, 90-unit apartment complex, in 2004 – prior to the recession and subsequent housing market crash.
However, against all odds, the project persevered, and The Rose's navigation of roadblocks posed by the economic and housing downturn was frequently referenced at Wednesday's event.
"This was a particularly challenging project," said Justin Douglas, policy manager with the Portland Development Commission, during the ceremony. "But, nine years later, here we are. This is a project that is great for Gateway."
East Portland's Gateway area was designated one of nine regional centers by Metro's 2040 Growth Concept and is one of PDC's focus urban renewal areas.
By 2015, the Gateway Regional Center is projected to be one of the most accessible locations in the Portland metropolitan area, according to PDC's website.
The neighborhood is located adjacent to two interstate freeways and at the confluence of three light rail lines, linking Gateway to downtown Portland, other centers and the airport.
Forty percent of The Rose's units are billed as affordable housing. The development's target demographics are modest income earners, singles, students, recent immigrants, retirees and ADA populations.
Metro's Transit-Oriented Development Program contributed $500,000 to the $10.5 million construction cost, plus $40,000 for a plaza.
A unique component of The Rose project is the accompanying street improvements. Jones partnered with the Portland Bureau of Transportation to redesign adjacent NE 97th Ave as a model green street, and construct an entirely new east-west connector, Everett Court.
"One of the big issues in Gateway is the large superblocks, with very few local street connections," said Andrew Aebi, Local Improvement District administrator with PBOT. "Everett Court will make it easier for people to get around."
Aebi added that, prior to Jones' involvement, NE 97th was a strip of pavement with "lakes" to either side.
Now, the street boasts sidewalks, urban swales and stormwater improvements.
Jones said that he hopes the pedestrian-friendly improvements and variety of tenants at The Rose will contribute to an active, diverse community. It's expected to generate about 50 more transit trips daily.
Metro Councilor Bob Stacey, whose district includes Gateway, spoke with enthusiastic support for The Rose at Wednesday's groundbreaking. He commented on Jones' commitment to community building, evident in project design features such as the street improvements, public plaza, covered seating, and a water feature.
"These are the kind of amenities that bring people together," Stacey said. "This is the kind of project that Metro is really proud to help."