Majestic’s Alberta Commons Retail Project Connects Community

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Alberta Commons, a 25,000-square-foot shopping district, has come to life with a lineup of anchor tenants and local businesses that have helped connect the community to its past and define its path forward.

Phillip Brown (far right) celebrates the grand opening of Alberta Commons (credit: Joshua James Huff).

PORTLAND, OR—After more than a decade of community debate and numerous failed redevelopment plans, Alberta Commons, a 25,000-square-foot shopping district located in the Alberta District of Northeast Portland, has come to life with a lineup of anchor tenants and local businesses that have helped connect the community to its past and define its path forward. The project was originated through a program at Prosper Portland, developed by Majestic Realty Co. and built by Portland-based Colas Construction.

The site is located at 5015 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. on the block bordered by MLK Jr. Boulevard, Alberta Street, Garfield Avenue and Sumner Street.

Alberta Commons is anchored by Natural Grocers. Majestic, which has been working with the local economic development agency Prosper Portland since 2012 to help shape the future of the district, secured the much-needed grocery anchor following two years of community and neighborhood meetings and a search for the right grocer to spur the project.

The development team, led by Majestic Realty Co.’s executive vice president Phillip Brown, then created and worked with Prosper Portland, neighbors and community activists to implement a community benefits agreement focused on four key areas: minority contractor utilization, public art, a comprehensive local hiring program by anchor grocer Natural Grocers, and the implementation of an affordable commercial tenanting program to ensure space was available for local businesses owned by people of color.

A diverse group of community members developed the vision for a commercial corridor centered on creating opportunities for local, diverse entrepreneurs at this location more than a decade ago. The use of a community benefits agreement for Alberta Commons guided planning, design, public art, tenanting and hiring.

“Our vision was to combine the strength of national and regional tenants with local businesses that could help truly connect this community to its storied history,” said Brown. “We saw Alberta Commons as a place to provide new opportunities, to bring back residents and businesses that may have been forced from the area as a result of prior decisions, and gentrification of the community.”

But the relationship that began in 2014 between the owners of Majestic Realty and Portland-based Colas Construction served as the true foundation of the grocery-anchored shopping center.

“Beginning with my very first meeting with Ed Roski and Phillip Brown in 2012, we established a very strong relationship, a chemistry and trust,” said Colas Construction president Andrew Colas who, like Roski, became the second-generation president of a company started by his father.

Working proactively with the community to listen and achieve consensus on the development path was a priority for the entire team. According to Colas, who grew up in the neighborhood and now shops with his brother at the retail stores he helped bring to the community, it led to a productive dialogue with community leaders who were vested in the neighborhood.

“What was evident from the beginning were Majestic’s unquestionable family values, personal engagement and pride in what they bring to local communities,” Colas says. “Phillip and his team helped drive this process and allowed us to be more involved in the development than most general contractors would typically be. Phillip worked so well not just with us, but together as a part of the community. We established a very strong relationship and that resulted in an open and honest dialogue with people in our community that may otherwise have questioned the intent and goals of any developer that they weren’t familiar with.”

Majestic envisioned a project which would allow businesses of color to benefit from the synergy created with national tenants.

“Majestic’s early commitment to involve Colas Construction as the general contractor was critical to demonstrating a commitment to engaging local businesses with ties to the community,” said Prosper Portland executive director Kimberly Branam. “Led by Phillip Brown, Majestic’s team facilitated the installation of the public art and quickly incorporated design changes recommended by the community-led retail tenanting advisory committee into the shopping center design.”

And, earlier this year, the team successfully landed three established local entrepreneurs which relocated businesses to the district with long-term leases at rates below the open market. Cason’s Fine Meats, Champions Barbershop and greenHAUS gallery joined the district’s grocery anchor as well as Wingstop and Portland Modern Dentistry. It is now called “Dream Street”.

“Alberta Commons showed us that by listening to and working closely with community members, we could increase the positive impact of our public/private partnerships,” said Branam. “We’ve expanded the affordable commercial space program to five projects across Portland and we’re getting questions about it from colleagues across the country. Unlike affordable housing, there’s no established approach to affordable commercial space and there is a lot of room for innovation. We’ve learned a lot from other cities about the use of community benefit agreements and that model is certainly relevant for any place seeking to integrate business expansion and development with job and business opportunities for local residents.”

In addition to driving business ownership in the community, each of the business owners were selected in part because they agreed to serve as community leaders willing to encourage area residents to support local, minority-owned businesses and connect to community.

“The prior failed development plans–initiated by other developers–were not successful because of the lack of communication, and listening to the needs and wants of community leaders and groups that have called this area home across generations,” Brown tells GlobeSt.com. “Majestic worked with Prosper Portland and local construction partners to host community meetings and be active participants in the discussion around what was needed and doable for this community. They earned the trust of the community. The tenants, representatives from Prosper Portland and the construction company president, were all key players working with Majestic to build a chemistry with the community and a trust that allowed this project to move forward.”

The retail market in the Portland metro area remained robust in second quarter 2019, with very little change, according to a report by Kidder Mathews. Quarter-over-quarter both direct and total vacancy rates increased by just 10 basis points, while total triple net rental rates edged up 1.93%. On the other hand, leasing has been relatively quiet and net absorption fell further into negative territory in the second quarter. This retail market remains one of the tightest in the country despite a slow start to 2019, says the report.

Link to Original Article: https://www.globest.com/2019/10/22/majestics-alberta-commons-retail-project-connects-community/