Latino Network raises $18 million for new community center in Gresham

A rendering of the exterior view of La Plaza Esperanza. The building will include a gathering space and a full-day kindergarten

Courtesy of Latino Network

For 26 years, Latino Network has provided a wide range of culturally specific services to the Latino community in the Portland metro area.

Today, the organization aims to expand these services. He raises $18 million to build Plaza Esperanza — a new community center in the Rockwood neighborhood of Gresham.

Tony DeFalco, executive director of Latino Network, said it would help fill a gap in services in eastern Multnomah County.

“It’s been a dream for the Latinx community for decades,” DeFalco said. “Our communities haven’t had a significant community center on the east side for many, many years.”

The organization offers 59 services ranging from housing assistance to early education programs, but the current operations center does not have the capacity to offer all of the services that Latino Network strives to provide.

“At Latino Network, we have been providing early childhood education for over two decades and we do it in schools and church basements, etc. “said DeFalco. “We brought this programming to where the community wanted it, and we’re currently offered at 20 different locations in the area.”

Plaza Esperanza would provide Latino Network’s first in-house preschool, offering free and culturally specific early childhood education.

The new 18,000 square foot community center would replace the old building and provide a variety of services to the growing Rockwood neighborhood, including community gathering space, housing and rental assistance, and youth programs .

“Our goal, of course, is to create a modern, beautiful, and sustainable building that will have a lot more capacity in terms of space,” DeFalco said.

Funding comes from private donations as well as from the public sector. DeFalco says it received money from Oregon Lottery-backed bonds, the American Rescue Plan Act and Multnomah County’s Universal Preschool Facility Fund.

Latino Network also expects to receive $2.7 million from New market tax creditsa federal initiative that funds businesses in low-income communities.

Starting this week, the organization needs to raise an additional $3.6 million to meet its $18 million goal.

Site plan of La Plaza Esperanza in the Rockwood area of ​​Gresham.  The proposed building will be one of four that make up the Rockwood Community Campus.

Site plan of La Plaza Esperanza in the Rockwood area of ​​Gresham. The proposed building will be one of four that make up the Rockwood Community Campus.

Courtesy of Latino Network / Latino Network

Plaza Esperanza joins three other organizations located on the Rockwood community campus, including CareOregon Club, New Avenues for Youth, and Open School East.

DeFalco said these organizations, along with Latino Network, play an important role in eastern Multnomah County.

“The four of us together form a very powerful bond between young people and family in service of family,” he said. “Really, anyone in the community can walk in and find the kind of culture-specific, age-specific, and demographic-specific programming they may need to support themselves and their families.”

The organization plans to begin construction in 2023 and open in the summer of 2024.

Jill E. Washington