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Project seeks right blend for SW neighbors

The new $52.8 million Stephens Creek Crossing is adding more diversity to Southwest Portland’s demographics. The reconstructed multifamily development on the edge of the Multnomah and Hillsdale neighborhoods is a combination low-income and public housing community that replaces a development plagued by mold and other problems.

“This is going to be an incredible place to live,” said Steve Rudman, Portland's Home Forward executive director, at the project's June 6 completion ceremony. “It’s really a culmination of Hope VI — it’s not the largest (of the three projects), but in many ways it has the greatest potential.”

Stephens Creek Crossing, 6719 S.W. 26th Ave., was constructed on the site of the 44-year-old Hillsdale Terrace, public housing project demolished in April 2012. The following August, construction began on Stephens Creek Crossing.

“We are celebrating an amazing transformation,” said David Widmark, chairman of the Home Forward board (formerly the Housing Authority of Portland). “Let me just say, it was grim.”

Stephens Creek Crossing was Home Forward’s third and final project funded in part by Hope VI, a federal program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development intended to revitalize distressed public housing. Home Forward secured a $18.5 million grant in Hope VI grant in May 2011, after an initial attempt failed a few years prior.

The development includes 122 one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom flats and townhomes, with 17 of the apartments offering accessibility for senior citizens and the disabled. The site includes space for seven new Habitat for Humanity homes that could be added to the development.

The project was designed by Michael Willis Architects and built by R&H/Colas Construction.

Major shift

Stephens Creek Crossing’s early June opening has been widely anticipated in Southwest Portland. Addressing longtime citizens’ concerns about smoothly integrating their new neighbors, many of them non-native English speakers, was a frequent agenda item at meetings of the Multnomah Neighborhood Association since plans for the community were completed.

The three schools assigned to the new tenants’ children — Hayhurst K-5, Robert Gray Middle School and Wilson High School — have also been preparing; not just for a change to the size of their student populations, but also their ethnic composition; gearing up for an influx of Somali and Hispanic students, a sixth-grade math teacher at Robert Gray developed a guide for her fellow staff members titled “Five Questions to Ask Your Students of Color.”

And the youngest residents of Stephens Creek Crossing will also be exposed to education almost right in their own backyard; a crown jewel of the development is a 7,000-square-foot children’s center with three Head Start classrooms overseen Neighborhood House, a nonprofit social service provider based in nearby Multnomah Village.

“I was especially excited about the early childhood center run by Neighborhood House,” said City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who is in charge of the Portland Housing Bureau.

The development constitutes a major shift from the local housing density breakdown: While the majority of housing in the area is single-family residential, with eight persons per acre in Multnomah as of the 2010 census, Stephens Creek Crossing houses more than 400 residents on six acres.

It also is an example of the city’s changing architectural bent; according to the Home Forward website, sustainability features in Stephens Creek Crossing’s proposed design included bioswales and cisterns to manage surface water; energy-efficient, geothermal “heat exchange” heating and cooling system; and construction materials selected for indoor air quality.