New Columbia

Your Guide
Rachel Hill, ASLA

New Columbia, a 82-acre mixed-income community created in 2005, is Oregon’s largest public-housing development. The vision of New Columbia was to create a vibrant neighborhood integrated into the city's grid network, designed for pedestrians and bicyclists first. The development has both pocket parks and larger green spaces, an elementary school, an opportunity center, and commercial spaces. It also blends into the urban context of north Portland, with a variety of housing options for different income levels. There are 850 housing units, 230 of which are available at a market rate, while others are set for particular income levels. There are also 60 housing units for the elderly.

New Columbia started as barracks for shipyard workers during World War II. Soon after, it became public housing called Columbia Villa. By the early 2000s, the development was crime ridden. Its deteriorating infrastructure was occupied by 1,300 low-income residents who were socially and economically isolated from the surrounding community.

Receiving some $150 million in funds from the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Hope VI grant program and other sources in 1993, New Columbia began its transformation into a community with ethnically as well as economically diverse residents and quality open spaces and streets. These amenities attract residents from surrounding neighborhoods, flipping the intention of “weaving the community into the city” by allowing the city to weave itself into New Columbia.

New Columbia was created by a multidisciplinary design team including Mithun (planning and architecture), Murase Associates (landscape architecture), and Robertson Merryman Barnes (architecture).

View Other Sites in This Topic