A tree crew grinds limbs Feb. 9 in preparation for construction of Cathedral Park Apartments in North Portland. The new low-income housing is in a former industrial site near the Willamette River and the St. Johns Bridge. (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)
A tree crew grinds limbs Feb. 9 in preparation for construction of Cathedral Park Apartments in North Portland. The new low-income housing is in a former industrial site near the Willamette River and the St. Johns Bridge. (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)
With Portland’s green St. Johns Bridge towering over his shoulder, Travis Phillips stood on ground that soon will be home for 110 low-income households.

Phillips, director of community development and housing at Catholic Charities of Oregon, knows Portlanders want action on the homelessness crisis. He thinks Cathedral Village Apartments in North Portland are a good answer.

The $37.7 million building, due for completion in 2022, will provide residents with social services designed to keep them self-sufficient and off the streets. Eight apartments are designated for people who are trying to recover from chronic homelessness.

“One thing rings true during these uncertain times, and that is the deep need to invest in inclusive and supportive housing communities,” said Phillips. “With Cathedral Village Apartments, we continue to reimagine our local neighborhoods and place value on positive human and social interactions as a means to healing.”

The name of the apartments comes from nearby Cathedral Park, so named because it sits beneath the bridge’s supports, which are shaped like gothic arches. There are no cathedrals in the area.

Catholic Charities and the housing nonprofit Related Northwest have teamed up on Cathedral Village, which is between the Willamette River and the St. Johns business district.

“We are excited about this location near walking trails, a park, close to retail and grocery and public transport,” said Stef Kondor, vice president of development at Related Northwest, which has done housing work for four decades. “This particular neighborhood has seen a lot of gentrification, and a lot of families are getting pushed out, so having permanent affordable housing is really important.”

Kondor is delighted with the partnership with Catholic Charities. Like all Catholic Charities housing, Cathedral Village will include a resident services coordinator overseeing the needs of residents, along with other staff. The building will offer after-school art and music programs and is likely to be a site for volunteers from churches and other community groups.

“It’s absolutely more than housing,” said Kondor. “It’s really the services and the staff coming together to create that sense of community and social connectedness, especially during pandemic times when we realize more than ever how important it is to be connected.”

Cathedral Village will get almost $17.5 million from a Portland housing bond passed by voters in 2016. Construction financing is being provided by Umpqua Bank and tax credit equity investment is provided by Red Stone Equity Partners.

The project aims not only to house formerly homeless Portlanders but to help working people remain housed during a tough economy. The studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments are for individuals and families between 30% and 60% area median annual income. The 30% level currently is $19,350 for an individual.

“Cathedral Village furthers the city’s work to create affordable housing options that reflect the diverse needs of Portlanders,” said Commissioner Dan Ryan, who oversees the Portland Housing Bureau. “I am especially excited about affordable housing that is family-centered. Providing on-site, after-school activities for the students is exactly what we need more of.”

Common areas will include strong Wi-Fi for those who need to have video visits with doctors or children who attend classes online. The building will include a music tech room where young people can mix tunes and beats.

Cathedral Village Apartments is the first housing development under Catholic Charities of Oregon’s Healthy Housing Initiative, a collaboration of Catholic Charities of Oregon, the Archdiocese of Portland and Providence Health & Services. The initiative is part of a larger Catholic Charities USA effort to address chronic homelessness with housing that melds health care with onsite social services.