Building a future with women at the helm

A view through the windows of Meyer Memorial Trust's new headquarters

"In conscious recognition of an imperfect past, it is what we do in the present that creates the change we seek."


So begins “Our Place in Oregon History,” the recently released visual introduction to Meyer’s new headquarters in North Portland. Portland filmmaker Donielle Howard captures soaring and luminous footage of our building — its thoughtfully considered spaces, sustainable footprint and meaningful artwork, all of which represent the hope and inspiration that drives our work at Meyer.

But the new space is only part of the story. Our home in the heart of the lower Albina neighborhood of North Portland also compels us to share the history of the land that our headquarters now sits upon. Alongside Howard’s beautiful images is a timeline of an uglier truth: historical signposts of a complex, somber and, at times, deeply shameful side of Oregon’s founding and the legacy of white supremacy and colonialism in our shared history.

I hope you’ll find the nine minutes in your day it will take to experience this story — and that it leaves you thinking more about what it means to create a more perfect future, with conscious recognition of the past.

March is also Women’s History Month, which also gives me an opportunity to celebrate the many women who brought this building to life and to highlight the important role that women played in the project.

First, I am grateful to Anyeley Hallova, formerly of Project^ and now, Adre, Ali O’Neill of O’Neill Construction Group, Chandra Robinson, project director at LEVER architecture and our own Phoebe O’Leary. The fierce intellect, resourcefulness, passion and creativity from this all-women team was integral to achieving a highly ambitious vision: a physical expression of Meyer’s values in a beautiful, enduring form.

In addition to our incredible leadership team, 47 percent of the Meyer headquarters construction budget was devoted to women and minority-owned subcontractors, 30 percent of the journey people and apprentice hours were filled by historically marginalized and under-resourced populations, including communities of color, women contractors and workers, underserved rural communities and people with disabilities. Ten percent of the hours were filled by women. Additionally, 80 percent of the subcontractors on the site were either women and/or minority-owned businesses; with 20 percent being “stretch” opportunities to give smaller companies the opportunity to grow and expand their portfolio.

While the pandemic has delayed our ability to celebrate these accomplishments in person, I hope that, with the vaccination rollout gaining steam, we will soon be able to welcome you in person to the building.

What a year it’s been. Here’s hoping that the coming year sees more justice and more equity, more resilience and resistance to the systems that continue to harm our communities and our land, and an even deeper reckoning with our past so that we may all better understand our shared history in order to build together a more collective future.

— Michelle