A couple of years ago a small building stood on the corner of Rodney and Russell. Though technically a remodel, the building on the same corner now in no way looks like the old Dad’s Oil office. The top floor has a couple of rental apartments and the bottom floor is now Afrique Bistro.
In Eliot there’s little left to see of the neighborhood’s complicated past. Once the vibrant, if sometimes dilapidated, center of Portland’s Black community, today almost all the landmarks are gone. The drugstore that anchored the busy intersection of Williams and Russell was beheaded and razed, its beautiful dome transplanted to Dawson Park. The Prince Hall Masonic lodge is now a tapas bar; the Cotton Club, flourishing in the sixties, sits abandoned behind a chain link fence; and the Black Panther medical clinic, which provided free health care to the community throughout the seventies, is long closed.
Two white ladies, both remembered as “angels” in Portland’s Black community were, improbably, both named Collins—though unrelated.
The Eliot neighborhood may soon be losing a historic home at 216 NE Tillamook. A demolition permit was filed by the company who purchased it two years ago but the city required a 120-day demolition delay on the house due to the fact that it is inside a historic zone and the age of the house. The delay is designed to provide some opportunity for someone to move the house to another location and restore it. Fortunately for the house, the owning firm who planned a condominium development on the site had financial problems and the property entered foreclosure recently.
Speaking of poor design, how about that 12-lane bridge to nowhere; I mean Vancouver? The lone “neighborhood” voice in City Council was frozen out when she tried to raise environmental justice issues, since the congestion that will be “relieved” will be at the Columbia moving the current congestion further into inner N/NE including Eliot. This is an area that is already overloaded with toxic air emissions and poisoning adjacent schools and it will only get worse with the bridge.
What makes a neighborhood? This is a recurring theme in this column. Typically it is about “imports” of low-income and special needs populations from the parts of the city who refuse to accommodate them in their own neighborhoods. At times it is about new construction that ignores the historic character of Eliot simply to express an architect’s ego or a developer’s greed. Almost always, it is preaching to a powerless choir because the City refuses to take the complaints of inner-N/NE seriously.
You may have glossed over the headlines about the City Council’s infatuation with new arenas for minor sports. The deal being crafted is for public financing and subsidy to convert the current baseball stadium (PGE Park) into a soccer venue and to construct a replacement stadium in either Lents, or at the Rose Quarter.
Tierra Educational Center, a locally owned Spanish and Latin American Cultural Center, has opened in Eliot Neighborhood to help bridge the communication and cultural gap between the growing Hispanic population and the community at large. The center offers quality and affordable Spanish classes for all levels, as well as special courses in topics specific to Latin American Culture and History. Tierra also hosts a free Spanish Conversation Club every Friday from 6-8pm, with guided discussion, guest speakers, and film screenings pertaining to Latin American issues.