By Don MacGillivray

One of Portland’s special places will soon be lost. Parks are generally sacred places that should be able to hold against drastic change or destruction.

Many wish St. Francis Park in the Buckman neighborhood could be preserved, at least in part.

Rendering of St. Francis Park apartments

Rendering of St. Francis Park apartments

Created out of the sweat and tears of many volunteers and significant efforts of the community, this most special park, playground and educational environment was created by the children their parents, and the neighborhood in a pleasing replica of the Oregon wilderness in their own backyard.

The work to change an open grassy field into a multifaceted school playground and park began fifty-five years ago in 1969. St. Francis Catholic School and Parish decided this would be the best use of this open space and with its transformation, would provide an active resource for the school and the neighborhood.

Turning a vision into this park is a long, happy story that has been told elsewhere but beginning this spring, the existing mature landscape including over 100 trees and many unique park features will be removed to build an affordable 106 unit apartment complex.

St. Francis Park is a Limited Partner with Catholic Charities serving as general partner, for this affordable housing project. The one acre site fronts SE Stark St. on the south, SE 11th Ave. on the west, and SE 12th Ave. on the east.

The site is within the northeast quadrant of the Central Eastside Industrial District.

The architectural firm of MWA (Michael Willis Architect) of Portland, San Francisco, and Oakland are the designers. Home Forward (formerly Portland Housing Authority) is a public corporation with the ability to function like a private real estate developer. The contractor is Walsh Construction.

The St. Francis Park Apartments will be a 52 feet tall, four story building with a total of 73,000 square feet featuring 102 apartments over an active use ground floor including a community room, office, and lobby at the intersection of SE Stark St. and 12th Ave.

It will be an L-shaped building surrounding a quarter acre multi-use plaza oriented northward toward the vacated SE Oak St.

Some residents for the project will be previously homeless women and recovering victims of domestic violence. Fundamental to the mission of serving these clients is to ensure the safety and protection of the residents.

A secure building including heightened perimeter security and a single point of entry is critical to achieving that mission so residents feel safe. Strangers visiting the property are monitored and illicit activities are discouraged to ensure the building for the use of the residents.

The project will incorporate works of art in common-use spaces of the lobby and landings on the upper floors. Salvaged art and sculpture will be incorporated as part of the plaza adjacent to the east and north locations.

The main entry will have recessed canopies on the communal front porch and include seating in the central Oak St. plaza which will provide places to rest and socialize and an area for staging events related to building uses.

See the Home Forward website for more information about this project, homeforward.org.