Oregon Community Foundation Seeks New Owner for Historic Albina Arts Center Building

Proposals for groups looking to take ownership of the building are due by June 23.

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After a year-long engagement process with dozens of Black community leaders around Portland, the Oregon Community Foundation announced this week that it is seeking proposals to determine the new owner of the historic Albina Arts Center.

Situated on the corner of North Williams and Northeast Killingsworth in Portland, the property is currently held by the North Portland Economic Development Fund. The building’s current tenants include Turn! Turn! Turn! — a combination record store and bar — and the Soul Restoration Center, a community gathering space. A third retail space sits vacant.

OCF contracted with Try Excellence, a Portland-area consulting firm, to craft an equitable engagement strategy that allowed for the Arts Center’s transfer of ownership to a nonprofit organization that represents the Albina community.

In the late 1960s, the building was acquired by the Albina Women’s League Foundation, but in 2015, one of the foundation’s leaders was accused of misappropriating funds. The Oregon Department of Justice then took control of the building and created the NPEDF to administer the transfer of the building to an appropriate charitable organization, in partnership with OCF. Don’t Shoot Portland attempted to acquire the building in 2019, but the DOJ rejected the offer.

The process engaged leaders and stakeholders in the city’s Black community, and together, they came up with a strategic vision and plan for what they wanted to see in the building, according to OCF.

Community leader Joyce Harris is among dozens of people who worked together to create a set of criteria that they would like to see in the future center. They want to see the new nonprofit be a Black-led organization that serves the Black community, committed to revitalizing, activating, and potentially expanding the building. They also want the center to be a safe and healing place that fosters creative arts — painting, dancing, music, sculpture, literature — in the Black community.  

“I am excited about finding a permanent and sustainable owner for the Albina Arts Center because this will represent a renaissance of Black history and culture,” says Harris. “The center will be a place to celebrate and build on generations of artistic expressions from ancient Africa to the present.”

The center’s new owner will be chosen through a Request for Proposal. Proposals are due by June 23 and afterward, a selection committee comprised of local Black community representatives will review them. After a finalist challenge period and interviews with finalists are complete, OCF will pick the winner and announce it in August.

Breathing new life into the building will recognize the strength of the Albina neighborhood, build upon the already rich history there, and celebrate the intersection of the arts and Black culture.

“When it comes to finding a new owner for the building, what I am most excited about is really quite simple: returning the property to Black ownership,” says Karis Stoudamire-Phillips, who serves as volunteer leader on the steering committee that architected the process for visioning the future. “When you think about the history of the building, it was established for Black people, by Black people. There was a clear vision, and it is time for a revitalization, taking the building back to its roots. As a native North Portlander, I am thrilled and absolutely blessed to be a part of making this happen.”