A federal lawsuit has been filed by a group of Black Portland residents accusing the city’s economic and urban development agency of racism in the destruction of their homes, per The Associated Press. The construction of Legacy Emanuel Hospital and various interstate highways displaced hundreds of residents, but mainly Black ones.
Per the lawsuit, a neighborhood called Albina had been vacated for highway building in the 50s and 60s. However, once the construction plans for the hospital were announced in the 70s, the displacement of the residents took a more drastic turn. About 188 properties were demolished which held over 80 families and individuals, per the suit. Businesses, churches, community organizations were all demolished for the sake of one project. As a result, 74 percent of Black families were forced to vacate their homes.
“I was taken out of my safe and loving community. I was moved into a neighborhood that saw me as a nuisance and to a school where I was one of three Black children,” said Connie Mack, one of the plaintiffs, per AP News.
Read more about the case from AP News:
A first phase, in the 1950s and ’60s, involved city officials secretly agreeing to compensate the hospital for the full cost of the purchases and demolitions, the lawsuit said. The homeowners were intimidated by hospital representatives and told that if they didn’t leave, the city would take their homes. They were not fairly compensated and in some cases not compensated at all, according to the lawsuit.
“This case is about the intentional destruction of a thriving Black neighborhood in Central Albina under the pretense of facilitating a hospital expansion that never happened,” the lawsuit says, adding that the loss of homes “has meant the deprivation of inheritance, intergenerational wealth, community, and opportunity.”
Legacy Health, which owns Legacy Emanuel Medical Center, declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying it is evaluating it. Prosper Portland, formerly the Portland Development Commission, also said it is evaluating the complaint and had no additional comment. City officials didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The neighborhood prior residents or descendants of residents knew as home is now renamed to Eliot and repurposed for tourism, shops and restaurants.
Per the lawsuit, the homes demolished would have been worth over half a million dollars today. The specific amount in damages is yet to be determined.