Halfway High-Rise

8NW8, a new affordable housing complex in Portland, is both stylish and sustainable

A gleaming new high-rise blends effortlessly into the cityscape of a rapidly changing swath of downtown Portland, where art galleries, martini bars, and a Whole Foods have sprouted up in an area near the city's skid row. But instead of high-end condos, this is 8NW8, a progressive new affordable housing complex made up of 180 low-cost, alcohol- and drug-free units.The $13-million building, which opened in October 2004, is as sustainable as it is affordable, featuring energy-efficient appliances, heat-recovery systems, and occupancy sensors that monitor energy use. Most important, says Richard Harris, the executive director of Central City Concern, the nonprofit that spearheaded the project, is that 8NW8 offers safe housing in tandem with services like health care and outpatient addiction treatment. Gary Cobb-a former heroin addict who once lived under a bridge in Tacoma, Washington-now lives and works at 8NW8, and says he owes his sobriety to their approach.Recently, the team behind 8NW8 was awarded the inaugural $25,000 I. Donald Terner Prize, which recognizes outstanding leadership and innovation in affordable housing. A pioneer in well-designed affordable housing, Terner died while on a humanitarian mission to Bosnia in 1996. "We're kindred souls," Harris says of Terner and CCC. "We believe you can house people and improve the community at the same time."