$488M federal grant paves the way for Albina redevelopment projects

Most of the funding will be used to build a cover over part of Interstate 5, reconnecting the Lower Albina community.

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Nonprofit Albina Vision Trust is working to see this and other revitalization projects completed.

Rendering courtesy of Albina Vision Trust

Efforts to restore and revitalize Portland’s historic Albina community just got a boost in the form of nearly half a billion federal dollars.

Congressman Earl Blumenauer and Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley announced last week that the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded Oregon $450 million to construct a “highway cover” over a portion of Interstate 5 as part of the Rose Quarter Improvement Project. Doing so will reconnect the Lower Albina neighborhood.

“This federal investment will help Portland restore and revitalize what was once the largest, most vibrant Black neighborhood in Oregon,” said PBOT Director Millicent Williams.

Albina’s history

Albina was Oregon’s fastest-growing city by the late 1880s, separated from Portland by the Willamette River. It was annexed by Portland in 1891, becoming an industrial hub and home for immigrant families, and today includes the neighborhoods of Eliot, Boise, King, Humboldt, Overlook, Irvington, and Piedmont. By 1940, racist housing practices and redlining left Black families confined to the Albina area — prompting the creation of a temporary housing solution: Vanport.

Four out of five Black Portlanders lived in Albina in the 1960s when the Interstate 5 freeway was constructed, cleaving apart the lower Albina community. Hundreds of residents and businesses were displaced by this and other urban renewal policies and projects. Early attempts to revitalize the area went largely unsupported. Today, restoration efforts are spearheaded by the nonprofit Albina Vision Trust.

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This could be what’s in store for the Albina neighborhood’s future.

Rendering courtesy of Albina Vision Trust

Reconnecting Albina

The newly awarded federal grant money will essentially convert part of I-5 into a tunnel, restoring Albina’s historic layout. ODOT will carry out the highway cover project, which will be about 8 acres in size, stretching from North Flint Avenue to just behind the Moda Center. Additionally, PBOT was awarded $38 million to redesign a section of North Broadway.

Funding gaps remain for the overall I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project, but ODOT said the federal grant allows it to “move forward, and we will continue to work with legislative partners on additional funding opportunities in 2025.”