Glistening Opportunity Center at 42nd Avenue officially opens to the public
Photos and Story by James Hill
Portland Community College marked a significant milestone in its commitment to advancing education and career opportunities for underserved communities with the grand opening of the Opportunity Center at 42nd Avenue on Thursday, October 26.
This transformative facility, located at 4299 NE Killingsworth St., is a collaborative endeavor supported by the Oregon Department of Human Services and the Native American Youth and Family Center, offering a comprehensive array of services, educational resources, and workforce development initiatives. PCC worked with Living Cully, a partnership of nonprofit groups committed to supporting the community by building economic, social and environmental opportunities, to conduct outreach to the neighborhood to plan for the resources the community needed.
“We are so grateful for the voters’ support that allowed us to redevelop this location to better serve the community,” said Dr. Adrien Bennings, PCC president. “Our partnership with Living Cully was critical to the planning and the design process. It helped to foster connections with our neighbors and community partners, who provided input on the kind of space and services they needed the most. This resulted in the beautiful center you see today.”
Funded by the 2017 PCC bond measure, the 50,000-square-foot Opportunity Center at 42nd Avenue is a state-of-the-art structure aiming for LEED Gold certification. It stands out as the college’s first project featuring Cross Laminated Timber (CLT), a sustainable and eco-friendly construction material that contributes to the building’s warmth and inviting atmosphere. The center incorporates principles of Critical Race Theory, Design Justice, and Trauma Informed Design to create a space designed for well-being and belonging, emphasizing natural lighting and connections to the outdoors.
“The use of CLT in the building of the center is helping PCC meet the sustainability goals of our bond-funded project,” said Tiffani Penson, PCC board member. “The center aims to provide a warm and welcoming environment where our students and community members can access many services like workforce training, healthcare, childcare, and SNAP benefits — all in one place. I love that. Centralized services make it so easy for our students and members of our community.”This center’s primary mission is to address racial and economic disparities by providing individuals with access to education and career-track employment opportunities. The services offered include career exploration, coaching, skills development, and comprehensive support systems to help individuals achieve their goals.
PCC’s Opportunity Centers, such as the new 42nd Avenue facility, play a pivotal role in reducing opportunity gaps by equipping individuals with the skills and confidence necessary to pursue high-demand careers. These centers assist students in navigating resources, finding employment, and progressing in their academic and career pathways.
Data from Temple University’s Hope Center underscore the significance of these services, revealing that 60% of PCC attendees have experienced housing and food insecurity in the past six months, with 20% facing homelessness. Access to resources like the Opportunity Center is essential to overcoming common barriers such as childcare, transportation, and health insurance.
Replacing two outdated buildings from the 1950s and 1980s, the new center consolidates a wide range of services and programs under one roof, including classrooms, meeting rooms, open workspaces, a community room, and common areas. The planners of the design of the facility not only used feedback from the community but from the college employees of the Opportunity Center at 42nd Avenue as well.
“It is spectacular,” said Rebecca Ocken, Planning & Capital Construction director. “I want to acknowledge the contributions that the center’s staff made to the design of this building. The dedication and commitment that you gave to the process is transformative. This building is the way it is because of all of you.”
The grand opening is just the beginning for this vital community resource. In the coming year, public art installations reflecting the values of the center and college, as well as the diverse stories of the community, will be added. Additionally, Multnomah County is set to open a 10,000-square-foot health clinic, offering healthcare and dental services. Home Forward will begin construction on an 84-unit affordable housing complex in partnership with PCC, including NAYA’s Early Learning Center for child development services.
“With our new health clinic, we will be able to serve more than twice the number of people we serve at the current location,” said Susheela Jayapal, Multnomah County commissioner. “We’ll go from 2,000 to 5,000 people. But the Opportunity Center is not just about this clinic, it’s also about housing, education, wrap-around services and childcare — all of which demonstrates PCC’s commitment to workforce development.”
For more information on the center’s services, visit https://www.pcc.edu/locations/42nd-ave/