This article is the sixth in our series on the 14 capital projects that failed to get funded by the Oregon Legislature in 2023. Only two were funded at $4 million, both in the Portland area. The 14 smaller projects total $7.8 million and are spread throughout the state, mostly in rural areas.
The Black United Fund (BUF) stands as a beacon of hope and empowerment for the Black community. Their ambitious project, the Building United Future Complex on North Alberta Street in Portland, will expand support for local Black, Indigenous, and other artists of color; Black-led and -serving nonprofits and small businesses; and other mission-aligned organizations. The Oregon Legislature’s decision not to fund the $900,000 project has left a void in the organization’s pursuit of positive change.
Founded in 1983, BUF assists in the social and economic development of Oregon’s underserved communities and contributes to a broader understanding of ethnic and culturally diverse groups. As one of the only Black-led foundations in Oregon, BUF is also one of the few remaining Black-led organizations in historically Black Northeast Portland…remaining a powerful presence right in the heart of Portland’s gentrification.
The new headquarters, Building United Future Complex, will expand opportunities for economic development, education, and community well-being in the Black community. The comprehensive plan includes a razing and rebuild of their physical space, along with an expansion to provide more accessible co-location options for small and emerging nonprofits and businesses. With the new building, BUF will be able to showcase and shelter more local artists and nonprofit organizations and continue to offer a place for the Black community to come together and thrive.
The project will increase BUF’s capacity by 200%, allowing the organization to serve 4,000 people directly and nearly 40,000 indirectly each year. Already, BUF has touched the lives of over 75,000 Oregonians. They have awarded more than $10 million in scholarships; supported 1,000 marginalized Portland-area youth and dozens of Black artists and entrepreneurs each year; and allocated $49.5 million in federal relief funding to Black individuals, families, businesses, and nonprofits.
The heart of BUF’s strength lies in its collaborative approach to community service. Their commitment extends beyond providing support. They offer physical space for smaller mission-aligned partner nonprofits at accessible or below-market rates. BUF staff act as mentors, providing technical and financial assistance. The Building United Future Complex will broaden this support further. The larger and more dynamic space will offer a nurturing environment for even more emerging organizations.
The project carries the hopes and aspirations of the entire community. The complex aims to be an “unapologetically Black space,” and defined by many as “a homecoming” for the Black community on Alberta Street. With over 30,000 square feet of space, the complex will become a hub for youth programs, arts organizations, economic development, and small business support, and a vibrant showcase of local art. The building will give them better visibility and new partners who will be co-located there, including Black-led, women-led, and -serving nonprofits and social service agencies.
The denied funding poses a significant setback for BUF and the broader community it serves, who have been planning this project as a community for several years. They have gained significant support and momentum, yet are in need of “close the gap” support for this shovel-ready project. Without crucial financial support, the project is delayed until the organization can raise additional funds to bridge the gap. In addition, other sources of funding hinge on BUF’s ability to secure this legislative support.
The Building United Future Complex is a symbol of resilience, strength, and community empowerment. As BUF regroups and continues to create positive change, the community eagerly awaits the day when the doors of the complex will swing open, welcoming a new era of support, collaboration, and empowerment for Black, Indigenous, and other people of color.