When it comes to business projects, Marcus Kauffman isn’t used to leading the way.
Marcus Kauffman, a biomass resource specialist at the Oregon Department of Forestry. Photo by Jason E. Kaplan.
A biomass resource specialist at the Oregon Department of Forestry, Kauffman serves as an ODF representative on the Oregon Mass Timber Coalition, a project aiming to expand the use of highly engineered wood products for uses that would be impossible with regular lumber. The coalition, led by the Port of Portland, has partnered with Hacienda Community Development Corporation on a plan to build prototypes of modular housing units, a cheaper, more environmentally friendly factory-made alternative to conventional housing, inside the Port’s vacant Terminal 2.
The currently vacant Terminal 2 structure. Photo by Jason E. Kaplan.
If all goes according to plan, the terminal will reopen as the Building Innovation Hub in spring 2026.
The project has already been awarded $500,000 from the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Build Back Better Regional Challenge. It’s also among 60 finalists competing for $1 billion in economic-development grants tied to the Biden administration’s coronavirus relief package. If it is one of the 20 to 30 projects selected, the coalition will receive up to $100 million in grant funding. The money would be used to create modular-housing prototypes to get private-sector developers interested and involved.
“Normally this isn’t how we do business. Usually we let the private sector lead and we fill in to support them,” says Kauffman. “It feels a little odd.”
The proposed project model, called a public-private partnership, is a way to fund private-sector projects that serve the public good but have up-front costs that make them difficult for private business leaders to pursue on their own. In addition to easing Oregon’s continuing housing crisis and developing a new generation of environmentally friendly, energy-efficient homes, the project is also being developed in partnership with Hacienda Community Development Corporation and promises to bring jobs to underserved Latinx communities in Oregon.
Rendering of modular housing. Courtesy of Forterra Modular CLT Prototype 2022.
Hacienda CEO Ernesto Fonseca says the project has “an aspirational goal” to hire 20% of its workforce from communities of color, and that jobs associated with the project will “comply with living-wage requirements and then some.”
Bedroom rendering. Courtesy of Forterra Modular CLT Prototype 2022.
“We want [people of color] to be part of the growing high-technology future of the timber industry. We want to build bridges between those communities and the Portland metro,” Fonseca adds.
While no fully private entities are involved in the modular- housing project yet, the coalition believes Oregon’s proven track record with …….