Decline and Revitalization

Lents urban renewal area

In 1932, the State of Oregon designated 82nd Ave a state highway and major commercial strip development set in. Lents began to see more and more business competition. In 1950 the Southeast Fred Meyer Shopping Center was built at SE 82nd and Foster. A decade later, in 1960 the Eastport Plaza Shopping Center, a 28-acer indoor mall, opened at 82nd and Holgate. Then in 1968 the Safeway which had been located at 90th and Foster moved west to 82nd and Foster across from the Fred Meyer, further decentralizing Lents access to groceries. The addition of this new competition was a major blow to the Lents business district. Most of Lents businesses could not survive and there were now vacant storefronts than active ones and by the 70s there were mostly 2nd hand stores, taverns, and dilapidated buildings. But the final, hobbling blow to Lents was the construction of the I-205 freeway which cut right through the heart of the town. The demolition and construction which lasted from 1975 to 1981 had a devastating effect on the neighborhood, displacing hundreds of homes and leaving many of the displaced residents with few options for new housing. Particularly hard-hit were senior citizens.

92nd Ave and Woodstock looking north – 1973

In the early 90s, the City of Portland Planning Bureau began working with members of the community to develop the Lents Neighborhood Plan which was approved by the Lents Neighborhood Association in 1995 and adopted by the city in 1996.

In 1998 the city partnered with the Portland Development Commission and established a 15 year, $75 million dollar urban renewal district. Ten years later, in 2008, the City Council amended the Lents Town Center Urban Renewal Area boundaries and increased funding by another $170 million dollars for neighborhood improvements and added 5 years to the project.

Since 2000, the city of Portland has invested $207 million in the Lents community. Prosper Portland, who manages the city’s investment in Lents (along with the Housing Bureau), has completed Phase 1 of the planned projects, and the Phase 2 projects are pending (as of Feb 2023).

92nd and Foster – old New Copper Penny and Chevron – 2016
Existing and proposed Lents looking east on Foster Rd from 1995 Neighborhood Plan

The vision for the revitalized Lents neighborhood in the 1996 Adopted Lents Neighborhood Plan through the City of Portland Bureau of Planning was as follows: Lents will….

  • Be a thriving urban center in outer Southeast Portland where people enjoy living, working and going for activities and recreation.
  • Be respected as a great place to be and an area where expectations are high for an improved quality of life.
  • Combine the character of an “urban village” with the economic vitality of an area-wide employment center. 
  • Provide a full range of neighborhood commercial, medical and social services. 
  • Incorporate traditional and alternative forms of housing, providing a strong population base in the heart of outer southeast.
  • Have an expanded network of parks connected with a greenway trail system to allow the residents of Lents to be able to travel, by foot or bicycle, to areas around the neighborhood without coming into significant conflict with the automobile. 
  • Have some streets turned into public places with residents’ front yards extending into a green environment.
  • Be a major employment center in the region, drawing from the neighborhood as well as the metropolitan area for their work force. 
  • Have a pedestrian-friendly environment and include more pedestrian crossings, increased connectivity between east, west, north and south, and improved signal timings at crosswalks to help reduce automobile and pedestrian conflict. 
  • Served by high capacity transit, such as light rail, as well as bus service.
  • Have a multi-modal transportation center with commercial tie-ins at street level for boarding by shoppers, workers, and residents.
Oliver Station – 92nd Ave looking north from Woodstock – 2019

Phase 1 development started in 2016 and completed in 2019. The city has spent $207M (adjusted for inflation per the Portland City Auditor’s report) so far on planning plus phase 1 development.

  • $74M – Commercial areas – Increase the vitality and economic health of commercial areas, support businesses, increase business profitability. Major development included the construction of:
    • Oliver Station, a two-building facility which occupies the core of Lents Town Center on both sides of 92nd Ave between Foster Rd and Woodstock Blvd and includes mixed-income housing in the upper stories and retail spaces on the ground floor.
    • Lents Commons at the northwest corner of 92nd Ave and Foster Rd. also includes mixed-income housing in the upper stories and retail spaces on the ground floor. 
    • Asian Health and Services Center at 91st Ave and Foster Rd was built as the new AHSC headquarters with community and clinic services, and event space.
    • 72Foster, a mixed-use building at the corner of 72nd Ave and Foster Rd with housing units in the upper stories and retail spaces on the ground floor.
    • Portland Mercado at 72nd Ave and Foster Rd which offers affordable retail space and a cultural platform for Latinx and other entrepreneurs to start or grow a business in the food, grocery, retail and service market.
    • Bar, and food cart businesses at 93rd Ave and Woodstock Blvd.
Woodstock Blvd looking east from 91st – 2019
  • $41M – Housing – Provide new and rehabilitated housing; create housing opportunities that allow existing Lents residents of all ages and incomes to remain in the area. The project provided 364 new rental housing units, including 258 affordable.
    • Woody Guthrie Place (named so because of the singer/songwriter’s brief stay in Lents while writing the Columbia River songs in 1941) is a mixed-income apartment building at 91st Ave and Reedway St.
    • In addition to the multiple mixed-income housing complexes listed under the “Commercial areas” section above, the project included Svaboda Court which includes 12 new townhouses, and renovations for The Glen Apartments.
  • $27M – Infrastructure – Improvements to streets, sidewalks, light rail, and parks. Major investments include:
    • The Foster/Woodstock Streetscape Enhancement Project
    • The Lents Entryways Project (The Lents Town Center monuments at the east and west Foster Rd gateways to the Lents business district)
    • The MAX Green Line extension and two station areas
    • The SE 122nd: Ramona to Holgate Sidewalk Infill Project
Zoiglhaus – 92nd and Raymond – 2016
  • $17M – Neighborhoods – Revitalize residential neighborhoods and increase livability with a focus on racial equity and anti-displacement.
    • Homebuyer assistance for 207 new homeowners 
    • Grants and loans for 608 low-income households for home repairs
  • $7M – Support Jobs – Help businesses create family-wage jobs and make these jobs available to area residents.
    • Loans and grants to 36 businesses in commercial corridors and to 28 local businesses in Lents Town Center/West Foster.
  • $31M – Administration/Overhead
  • $10M – Prosper Portland Staff

The results, based on the impact to the community, are evaluated in an audit by the Portland City Auditor Office published in February of 2020.

Phase 2 development is planned for a 4.4-acre property owned by Prosper Portland on SE 92nd Ave between SE Harold St and Ramona St and is set to include additional housing, commercial, and community spaces. Development was expected to start in 2020 but is stalled at the time of this writing.