St. Francis Park at SE 11th and Oak Streets in the Buckman neighborhood was recently awarded $6.5 million from the Portland Housing Bureau to help with the $20 million development of this full city block by Catholic Charities and Home Forward.

Facing north between 11th & 12 on SE Stark

Facing north between 11th & 12 on SE Stark

The plan for the St. Francis Apartments is to develop 102 apartment units that will include 73 studios, 28 one-bedroom units, one two bedroom unit and 33 parking spaces. Ninety percent of the units will be for families earning less than 60 percent of the median income and ten percent will be units for those earning less than 30 percent of the median income. In addition 25 units will be reserved for victims of domestic violence.

This is much-needed housing in Buckman because most of the newer projects are market-rate housing and Portland has a serious shortage of low-income housing. The building will  extend the full length of SE 12th Ave., along SE Stark St. and then continue halfway up SE 11th Ave. The apartment building will cover about fifty percent of the block. Most of the north half of the park will be landscaped as a semi-private open space. It is hoped that a few of the features of the historic St. Francis Park will be preserved in a creative and appropriate manner. After all the park has been an iconic landmark of the area for 45 years.

The church and neighbors built St. Francis Park in 1969 using fill from the excavation of a downtown office building. In recent  years, the park became too much to care for and was no longer a successful public open space.

It is sad that this enterprise, built by the community and the Catholic school in residence, needs to go. In its glory days, it had waterfalls, two places to swim, dynamic play sculptures, more than one hundred trees, a nature trail, and overlooking it all was the mast of the destroyer USS Spencer a navy veteran of WWII.

In the mid 1980s, the school was closed and a dining hall opened for those in need of a good meal. In addition to the park one Portland “four-square” home owned by the parish will also be demolished.

The project will replace a private park in the inner city. Patrons of the St. Francis Dining Hall have been the most frequent users of the park since the mid 1980s.

Even though this is an affordable housing project, it will likely contribute to the continuing gentrification of the area. Just across the street the Washington-Monroe Community and Aquatic center is in the planning stages and waiting for the funds for construction.

Ground breaking for the housing project is expected in December of this year.