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PORTLAND-Due to rising costs and other issues, the Housing Authority of Portland is backing away form an opportunity to develop a low-income housing projects designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry. Recent works by Gehry include the Guggenheim Museum in Spain and the Experience Music Project in Seattle.

Homer Williams is the land owner and developer now trying to keep the River District project moving forward despite HAP’s reticence about architectural fees and construction costs for the estimated $33 million project — about $6 million more than the public-funding process can handle. Williams is said to be actively seeking new partners to fill the gap in support that now exists with HAP’s change of heart.

The 180-unit project is Williams’ way of fulfilling with style part of his commitment to build 1,000 low-income housing units as part of his redevelopment of the River District land. HAP chairman Howard Shapiro was quite excited about the project when it was first discussed, and at one time is said to have committed personal time to help raise funds for the project.

In addition to costs, HAP apparently needed to have the property subdivided into traditional city blocks in order for it to borrow money for pre-development costs. For Williams, however, subdividing the property meant more property taxes, and he balked at that. HAP and Williams reportedly began discussing a way around the sticking points in early October, but could not come to an agreement.

Margaret Van Vliet, deputy executive director of HAP, tells GlobeSt.com “we’re disappointed, (we) thought it was a good opportunity to test some new ways of designing affordable housing, and also make an important statement about low-income people being able to live in a Gehry building, but (we) just felt like the funding gap was problematic.”

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