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“When I got here, I wasn’t sure if I should knock, ring the door bell or just walk in. I walked in and she [Broker Shelly Fullwiley] said ‘Welcome home!’”
That’s what Rachel Allen, Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives’ resident–or more appropriately, former resident–had to say about the day she received the keys to her new North Portland home.
Allen (pictured above signing final documents) participated in PCRI’s Home Ownership and Individual Development Account programs to help her prepare for her “Welcome home” moment. While she says it’s hard to pinpoint a single most-helpful part of the program, she is quick to point out how it helped her better understand the process and the many pieces that make up the homebuying puzzle: Realtors, inspectors, lenders and mortgage brokers, to name a few.
“You came out fully educated about the home buying process,” Fullwiley summarized.
While education about home buying was a journey, Allen always knew her destination: a home in Portland’s north or northeast neighborhoods, close to family and with an easy commute to work. There were times when she wondered if, in order to afford a home, she would have to move further out, but with patience and persistence she found the home and location she wanted.
“Rachel followed her game plan,” said PCRI Homeownership Coordinator Charles Funches (pictured below with Fullwiley, left, and Allen, right). He added, “Rachel never had to compromise. That’s powerful.”
Funches credits Allen’s focus and determination as defining assets. Combined with wisdom gained from the program’s classes and meetings, these assets were key to realizing her homeownership dream.
“You set your sights very decisively that ‘this is what I’m going to do,’” he said. “The end result is that you’re getting everything you wanted. You’ve done it.”
In fact, Allen did get everything she wanted. Right down to the home’s deep purple trim paint–her favorite color.
Part of Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives’ mission is to preserve housing in Portland. But preservation is defined in so many ways:
One way PCRI preserves housing is through our Programs Department, encouraging homeownership for our residents through education for sensible financial decision making.
Another way we promote preservation is by valuing our natural resources and using them judiciously when constructing new homes. We’re also continuously upgrading the energy- and water-efficiency of our residences.
But preservation includes something else: maintaining the rich history of our neighborhoods. Part of that history is told in the architecture of the homes, like the M. G. Nease House where PCRI’s offices are located. Here’s a little history told by architectural historian Jim Heuer:
The M. G. Nease House was designed by Alfred Faber for one of the many newly wealthy lumber entrepreneurs in 1908. In form it is an enlarged bungalow with characteristic Craftsman Style detailing.
When PCRI acquired the building it was in marginal condition, with many disruptive alterations having been performed by its prior owners. After 2 years of painstaking rehabilitation, PCRI moved into their new offices in early 2006. The work they did, as shown in these photos is remarkable for the dedication shown to preserving and restoring the architectural details of this once, and now again, grand home.
Additional photos and a virtual mini tour can be seen here.
“Today we eat, we celebrate, and we honor people,” said Maxine Fitzpatrick, opening a celebration November 12, 2009, at Portland’s Urban Plaza.
Fitzpatrick, Executive Director at Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives (pictured at right), praised the day’s honorees: “in their own unselfish ways [these people] have contributed mightily to the livability and the fabric of this great community.”
A full crowd packed into–and spilled out of–the Urban Plaza conference room where PCRI honored Oregon State Senator Margaret Carter, Judge Aaron Brown, Jr., and posthumously recognized PCRI resident Corene Harris. The luncheon also celebrated recently-completed renovations of the residences and common areas of PCRI’s Urban Plaza building at N. Russell Street and N. Williams Avenue.
Mrs. Harris, the afternoon’s first honoree, was celebrated by Fitzpatrick and by Harris’ niece, Pamela Bates. Both Fitzpatrick and Bates both recognized Mrs. Harris’ courage and strength.
“The first thing that came to my mind about my Aunt Corene was courage,” Bates said.
The luncheon also honored Judge Aaron Brown, Jr.. Though he was not able to attend, Gregory Brown, his son (pictured at right), and attorney Ernest Warren, Jr., spoke on his behalf.
The younger Brown shared stories of Aaron Brown, “the man, not the judge” who offered wise paternal advice like “Get rid of those California tags,” after his son moved to Portland from California.
Warren, on the other hand (pictured below left with Fitzpatrick), remembered Aaron Brown, the attorney and judge, and shared history milestones of Oregon’s first African-American judge. The milestones Warren cited included Judge Brown’s graduation from Northwestern School of Law in 1959–four years after another famous Brown was in court: Brown v. Board of Education.
Ten years later, Aaron Brown made history as the first African-American judge in the state of Oregon.
“And that’s big,” Warren remarked.
Judge Brown was a bit more humble about making history. In a conversation that Warren recounted, he stated, “That’s no big deal.”
The celebration continued by honoring another of Oregon’s first: State Senator Margaret Carter. In 1984, Carter became the first African-American woman elected to the Oregon Legislature. She continued her legislative career, moving to the State Senate in 2000. Earlier this year she retired from her Senate position and now serves as Deputy Director for Human Services Programs at the Oregon Department of Human Services.
Before Carter took the podium to describe her challenges as Oregon’s first female African-American legislator–and her determination to deflect crude jokes and criticism for future public servants–Roy Jay took the podium to offer his praise.
“If you’re not at the table, you will become the appetizer,” Jay said, recounting a comment spoken by Carter. Jay shared stories and thanked Carter for advocating for traditionally under-represented communities–in essence, bringing them to the table.
PCRI Project Manager Travis Phillips followed Jay and Carter, offering his own praise of the Senator including her work to preserve the units of affordable housing at Urban Plaza as well as the history of its namesake tenant, the Urban League of Portland.
After the crowd dispersed and the lunch dishes were cleared, the spirit of the honorees lingered. Newly-commissioned portraits of Mrs. Harris and Judge Brown (at left), unveiled at the celebration, will soon join the existing portraits of Senator Carter (above left) and other influential individuals on the Russell Street face of the Urban Plaza building.
As PCRI looks forward to a celebration for completed renovations (finally!) including lower level rooms and main floor common areas at Urban Plaza, we’re also looking back to the spring of 2007, when we completed renovations of the building’s residential units. This profile was part of our Spring 2007 newsletter:
Eugene Brooks (pictured at left) and Willie Jones didn’t know what to expect when they learned that PCRI planned to renovate the newly-acquired Urban Plaza building. Some of the residents were temporarily relocated to other PCRI units but Brooks and Jones were among the residents who stayed. For months they lived through seismic upgrades to the roof and major improvements to the plumbing and heating systems.
They moved to completed top floor units while the work was being done in their units. There, Brooks came to really enjoy the view from his tree top window. He could see over the top of the Rose Garden Arena, across downtown Portland, and all the way to the West Hills (pictured below as seen from the rooftop) that twinkled at night.
Jones, on the other hand, moved into space that was smaller than what he was used to, and this had an impact on his work as an artist. “I had so much stuff in that small space that I couldn’t get the connection for the website,” he said.
During the eight-month renovation, residents commented on the progress from the sidelines. Carpets, cabinets, countertops, appliances, windows and lighting were all replaced.
“Even though people had a lot to say, everyone felt it was a good idea and turned out pretty good,” said Brooks.
“It was hard to get around the construction activity, but the building was greatly improved from what it was,” agreed Jones.
In the end, Jones moved back into his much-improved downstairs studio apartment with its high ceilings and spacious windows. “I got to have the light,” he said.
As for Brooks, he decided to stay in the much smaller studio upstairs, explaining, “I couldn’t give up the view.”