In just 13 months, an empty 5.5 acre lot in Rockwood will transform into a bustling center featuring more than 100 housing units, a market hall, a public plaza, and an “Innovation Hub” offering job hunting assistance, technical training, and space for small business owners.
On June 12, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and Commissioner Lori Stegmann joined the Gresham City Council and Roy Kim of RKm Development for the groundbreaking of the $70-million development, known as “Rockwood Rising.”
Known as an “Opportunity Zone,” the Rockwood neighborhood in northwest Gresham is young and diverse. The median age is 27, more than 60 languages are spoken, and half of residents are non-white. It’s also historically been overlooked. Rockwood is a food desert — residents have limited access to grocery stores and farmers markets —and many residents have very low incomes. Leaders hope to change that.
The Opportunity Zone program provides tax advantages to developers who invest in certain communities. It’s supposed to be a win-win for investors and residents in historically underserved communities. Rockwood is high on the priority list for development.
Rockwood Rising’s theme will be workforce training. The anchor tenants include MetroEast Community Media, Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center, Mt. Hood Community College Small Business Development Center, and Worksource Oregon. All aim to help local residents gain skills to help them do anything from starting their own business to landing their first living wage job.
Having grown up in Rockwood, Commissioner Stegmann knows the neighborhood well. She’s also owned a business there for the last 25 years. Speaking to an audience of local leaders, business owners and residents, Commissioner Stegmann shared her vision for what Rockwood can become.
“When we first began dreaming of what this site could be we imagined a place that would serve our existing community—where people wouldn’t be pushed out but drawn in,” Commissioner Stegmann said at the groundbreaking. “A gathering place where our diverse communities could share a meal and express their cultural heritage. In short, a place that all could call home.”
With construction underway, the project is slated for completion in 2021. At that point, leaders expect more than 100,000 square feet of new commercial, office, retail and residential space. The hope: transform Rockwood from Opportunity Zone to success story.
“These kinds of investments are major milestones for our community,” Commissioner Stegmann said, “and will provide educational, career, and family support services and amenities that will improve the quality of life for our existing residents. This day has been a long time coming, but we did it.”