Peaceful Villa Makeover

By Nancy Tannler

A big change is underway in the Richmond neighborhood as residents grapple with the redevelopment of Peaceful Villa–situated between SE 46th and 47th Ave., between Clinton and Woodward St. Home Forward plans to dismantle the current 14 building, 70-unit development and build 166 new multi-family housing units.

Home Forward, formerly the Housing Authority of Portland, was created on December 11, 1941 as an emergency means of managing the temporary housing built for wartime workers (i.e. Vanport). They are a public corporation that contracts with the federal government to administer housing programs. 

Peaceful Villa was built under this contract in 1946. The 70 units are mostly one-bedroom units, but there are a few studios and two-bedroom units. 10 parking spaces are available for residents. 

Home Forward met with the residents of Peaceful Villa in December 2021 to discuss design issues before presenting to the Richmond Neighborhood Association (RNA) in June 2022. Leslie Crehan, Home Forward, said it was necessary to rebuild because the current buildings “were beyond their useful life.” 

BORA architects was chosen for the project. One of the architects, Brian Squillace, has spent 20 years focusing on community-centered design. He believes the design team came up with an innovative set of solutions to increase density and open space in positive ways. The 166 units will be a combination of studios and one- to four-bedroom apartments.

Heather Flint Chatto, urban planner, RNA Land Use said, “This project will increase overall affordable housing in Richmond and provide much needed family-oriented apartments. We have been advocating for both; these goals are well documented in the housing section of the voluntary PDX Main Streets Design Guidelines Richmond developed.” 

It should be noted that in recent years YIMBY’s (Yes In My Back Yard) and developers have accused the RNA of being anti-density. “This isn’t true,” said Flint Chatto. “What we do advocate for is a good development process that is currently lacking.”

An example that Flint Chatto spoke to is what is known as a cumulative impact analysis. “This analysis studies the total effect of past, present and future actions on the environment and human health.” The city does not require this study.

Community Advisory Committee (CAC) member for Peaceful Villa, Claude Sakr, sent a letter to Commissioner Carmen Rubio detailing why he feels this process has been flawed. “I am very concerned that no meaningful land use review of the design appears to be required to get the redevelopment permitted, despite the proposed buildings’ form/length, which is a significant change in the context of the neighborhood.”

The RNA sent a letter of Remedies and Recommendations to Home Forward and the city stating that the city “does not even give itself the oversight such a project would and should warrant.” This is especially relevant in projects of this size.

Although the design team at BORA did consider the PDX Main Streets Design Guidelines to minimize the bulk of the facade–two unbroken, 253 ft. buildings three and four stories high–by angling the roof tops a certain way, it’s still been a hard sell for the neighbors. The amenities and ability to house more low-income people have been over-shadowed by what some felt was a lack of neighborhood participation. 

“What we have learned about architecture over the years is that good design on a human scale is better for the overall health and well-being of society,” Flint Chatto said.

The RNA would like to know the actual elevations of the two large buildings to better understand the scale and where they can request some approaches that will humanize the design. 

There is also hope that when Peaceful Villa re-opens in 2026 there will be a day care facility included, especially since there will be more family-oriented units. “We have ideas for how to make this work without it being too expensive,” Flint Chatto said. 

At the March 11 community meeting, BORA architects and Home Forward presented what they propose as the final design plan (available at This was also an opportunity to hear from other members of the community.

Edie Gillis is one of the 140 people who will be displaced in the winter of 2024. Home Forward has guaranteed return status for all of the current residents of Peaceful Villa after the remodel. “I have to figure out where to live and how to live for two years,” she said. Many others are fearful of what will become of them since this is low-income housing.

In April, Home Forward will submit the final environmental assessment then there is a 15-day public input process before the project is approved.

Anyone driving on SE Division St. over the past 10 years can see that the Richmond neighborhood has absorbed a lot of density. The RNA’s constant vigilance combined with knowledge of land use issues are an important way for the city’s developers to really hear from the people, especially with projects that are of the magnitude of Peaceful Villa.

Peaceful Villa rendering from the SW corner of SE Clinton St. and 46th Ave by BORA.

Peaceful Villa Makeover

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