About the Portland Mercado
The 2010 census reveals that the Portland metro region is home to over 240,000 Latinos, making up nearly 12% of the region’s population. At the same time, studies by the City of Portland show that 26% of Latino families currently live at or below the poverty level. Despite high levels of poverty, the Latino community contains many strengths and assets. In our region many Latinos have experience from their home countries running small businesses and have high levels of entrepreneurial skill and drive. However, due to barriers of language, culture, and financing, these skills and drive remain an untapped resource for many immigrant families and the region.
With this in mind, Hacienda Community Development Corporation (HCDC) a culturally-focused service provider, began research in the summer and fall of 2010 for avenues to best address these issues through micro-enterprise development and community economic development. In January of 2011 HCDC partnered with four students in the Masters in Urban and Regional Planning program from Portland State University to conduct a 6-month feasibility study for the Portland Mercado. This initial planning and research catalyzed the momentum to take the project where it is today. Today HCDC, community partners, and an organized group of 20 Latino entrepreneurs are working together to develop Portland’s first Latino-themed public market – El Mercado Latino de Portland - the Portland Mercado. They are enthusiastically and passionately working toward community economic development that uplifts and empowers community members.
The Portland Mercado
The Portland Mercado will combine elements of indoor public markets and farmers’ markets in the U.S., Canada and Europe with the bustle and feel of many Latin American open-air markets. The Mercado entrepreneurs will offer a mix of goods and services, including culturally specific prepared and fresh foods and fresh produce. HCDC’s reputation as a trusted advocate for the low-income Latino community will help promote the Mercado as a safe, legal, and reliable place to find goods and services. In the Spring of 2012 HCDC and the Portland Development Commission (PDC) identified a site suitable for the Mercado (based on case study and extensive research over the past year) at SE 72nd and SE Foster Ave in the Mt. Scott-Arleta Neighborhood, bordering the Foster-Powell Neighborhood. We are extremely excited about this opportunity in this diverse area as we believe the presence of a Latino-focused public market will support other international businesses in the area and encourage additional people in the Portland region to travel to this area to do their shopping as well as to experience what the area has to offer. (Check out the Market Study here). This agreement made possible Hacienda’s successful application for a federal grant of nearly $800,000 for the construction of the Portland Mercado (see below).
Hacienda CDC and their investment partners will initially own the business, land, and building via an LLC. Over time, we anticipate that the Mercado tenants will begin buying into ownership of the LLC as well. This will complete the economic development cycle and will place this valuable asset in the hands of the community operating the Mercado.
The Portland Mercado will draw local daily and regular Latino and non-Latino customers as well as bring in Latino and non-Latino customers from the greater Portland area. These customers will come for the experience of an authentic Latino public market in addition to utilizing vetted and trusted services. Field research conducted by HCDC and partners on the habits and purchasing power of the Latinos and non-Latinos in the Portland Metro Region indicate that the Mercado will have a strong customer base.
Hacienda CDC is a successful and well-run non-profit serving Latino and other communities in the Portland region. They have a portfolio of well-managed affordable-housing and they offer adult education classes, business-education programs and homeownership classes. They run a community center and are a well-respected partner in the non-profit community. More information about Hacienda CDC can be found at www.haciendacdc.org.
There is currently a group of 25 entrepreneurs who have been meeting monthly since April 2011 to plan the Portland Mercado, this group is called the Asamblea, or assembly. The Asamblea selected a “board of directors” or Mesa Directiva which heads sub-committees in site selection, vendor recruitment, internal rules and regulations, and cooperative formation. Members of the Asamblea are also currently in or have completed financial and business education classes offered by Hacienda CDC. This training is a self-imposed rule for entrepreneurs who wish to become involved in the Mercado. Other regulations they have established include developing specific criteria for each business applying for the Mercado to ensure that only the most viable and potentially successful businesses gain entry, ensuring success for the cooperative as a whole and its investors.
Political and Community Support
U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkeley; U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici; Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen; and Portland Mayor Charlie Hales have all expressed public support. This support was truly highlighted in a successful federal grant application submitted in June 2012 to the Department of Health and Human Services. This grant request, which fell under the well-known “Healty Food Financing Initiative” pursued by the Obama Administration, was successful and will bring nearly $800,000 in funds to construct the Portland Mercado. We have connected with community organizations such as Rose CDC, Foster Green, Depave, the Mt. Scott – Arleta and the Foster – Powell neighborhood associations, and SE Works, many of which have helped us during the course of our planning and have expressed support for the project. We are grateful to be working with such an amazing community organizations.
State-wide and National Recognition
The PSU Masters in Urban and Regional Planning students were awarded for their work producing the 2011 feasibility study, “Portland Mercado: Community Economic Development to Revitalize, Uplift and Empower” at the state level by the Oregon Chapter of the American Planning Association for their “Student Achievement in Planning” and at the national level by the American Institute of Certified Planners for their “Application of the Planning Process”.
Ongoing Progress and Process
After extensive planning and outreach efforts, we kicked off 2013 by hiring development consultant, Jeana Woolley, and Scott Edwards Architecture as the Mercado architect. As we enter into the design stage of the Mercado, we continue to research funding opportunities and community support. If you are interested in financially supporting the development of the Mercado or are familiar with a group, foundation, or organization that may possibly help fund our project, please email Nathan Teske, the Director of the Community Economic Development Department at Hacienda.
The volunteer response for this project has been extraordinary. We do not currently have opportunities for additional volunteers, but we are excited opportunities to participate in the Mercado project during our Depave event later this fall. Please stay updated – subscribe to the blog, “Like” us on Facebook and “add” us on Twitter!
THANK YOU for visiting our blog and learning more about the Portland Mercado!