City Commissioner Nick Fish broke ground on the new Resource Access Center for the homeless after a 90-minute backslapping ceremony this morning. Say what you like about politicians not being able to deliver, but the guy deserves credit on this achievement. It really is remarkable.
Fish inherited the Resource Access Center project from former City Commissioner Erik Sten, when Sten left town midway through his term in early 2008. Sten told the Mercury in 2007 that the center would be open by now, so the groundbreaking is two years late, but to give Fish credit, he had to settle an unforeseen lawsuit, in the mean time.
The new shelter will have a shelter for 90 people "whose prior address was the cold and mean streets of the city," said Fish. There will also be supported housing and services for 130 more. It will also provide 125 jobs, and make a difference to "our triple bottom line," Fish said—saving public resources (research shows it's cheaper for governments to house people), saving natural resources (it's going to be Leed Platinum, dahhling), and "literally, saving lives."
Fish thanked an inordinate number of people this morning, from Housing Authority of Portland project manager Mike Andrews to Transition Projects Inc. director Doreen Binder—TPI will run the center, and Binder "is a treasure in our community," Fish said—to the lady from Wells Fargo who cut the check. But of course, the best politicians know how to give others credit for their own achievements, and it was left to some bloke in the background to finally credit Fish for the success:
"This is one of the toughest projects that has ever been attempted in my however long I've been doing this," said Mayor Sam Adams. "The person who brought this project home was newly elected, he was new to the job, he came in to budget cuts, and not only had some very difficult bureaus to manage, but an unrelated lawsuit that mangled up and delayed this project."
The ceremony was attended by many of the city's luminaries, including City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, Central Precinct Commander Mike Reese, District Attorney Mike Schrunk, County Chair Ted Wheeler, as well as plenty of folks who will actually be using the services when the center opens in 18 months. It took place in a marquee—"I'm sure we'll get criticized for spending money on the tent," Fish said, and there was even a fake pile of ground to be broken for the picture.
The $46.8million project is receiving $34million in Tax Increment Financing from the Portland Development Commission. Two percent of the $46.8million will be spent on art—to be commissioned by Eloise Damrosch, executive director of the Regional Arts and Culture Council.
"This is our day," Fish concluded. "This is our time. And people throughout Portland are counting on us to seize this moment."
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