Tucked away alongside Portland’s West Hills, Forest Heights boasts beautiful homes with diverse architecture, well-maintained walking trails, and, most of all, a vibrant and beautiful community.
Marked as one of the most successful and largest developments in Oregon, Forest Heights has a rich history and stands out as a truly unique development. The project began in 1972 when developer Homer Williams, purchased 1,100 acres throughout what we now know as Forest Heights and adjacent communities. The land had been used off and on for the past 100 years, mostly because of a local sawmill and the abundance of timber that was available in the area. While Williams recognized the tremendous potential of the acreage he purchased, there was no arguing that it was going to be a challenge to develop. The hills were steep and lacked the sizable utilities required to power a large number of properties.
To get the job done, Williams recognized that he must look beyond himself and he and his partners went in search of an organization that would be able to take on the financials and management of a project this size. By a series of happenstances, Williams and his partners became acquainted with members of the island of Nauru, a single island nation in the Pacific Ocean about 1,000 miles West of Hawaii. Due to an abundance of phosphate found on the island, Nauru was extremely wealthy and had been investing in various housing developments in other parts of the United States.
Having caught their attention, Williams sold 601 acres of his land for $16 million to Nauru in 1988. Local developer, George Marshall was hired to develop, manage and sell the property. Having worked on many developments throughout Oregon, including Claremont, The Highlands at Gearhart, Charbonneau, Kings City, Summer Place and built over 2,000 single family homes, Marshall thought it was best to build Forest Heights as an extension to the neighborhoods that are known as the West Hills.
In the beginning, the early 90’s the economy was in a down cycle and sales were slow. To jump start activity and represent the Nauruan’s commitment to the community, Marshall had 30 architecturally designed homes built as specs. Not only did it relieve purchaser’s anxiety of being the “pioneers” in a new development, and lots started selling, it solidified his vision of Forest Heights being an extension of the West Hills. The architecturally designed homes ranged from 1,600 sq. ft. to 5,000 sq. ft. and from traditional cape cod style to contemporaries, and everything in between. The use of eclectic design and size interspersed among each other is what is found in the older heights neighborhoods and adds to the charm and grace of the neighborhoods. It set the stage for construction of future homes and an architectural review committee was established to assure the vision was adhered to. It is quickly apparent when driving through Forest Heights that although it was primarily built between the 90’s and mid 2000’s, it does not date itself as such, and has matured in a more timeless manner.
To further encourage interesting architecture and variety, individuals were allowed to purchase lots, design custom homes and have them built by the contractor of their choice. The unique concept of having individuals and builders (not production builders) purchase lots allowed the community to have character and individuality rather than just be another “project”. It was almost never a possibility for a purchaser to buy their own lot in a subdivision, which were usually controlled by one or a couple of builders, and is virtually unheard of today. By the mid 90’s demand skyrocketed and lots were sold in lotteries, and the sales team primarily completed the sell-out of lots by 2007.
Just some of the amenities in Forest Heights are the premier Forest Park Grade School (Nauru donated the land), Mill Pond Park, The Village Commercial Center, 8 miles of beautifully manicured trails, 200 acres is designated greenspace, concerts and numerous activities for everybody in the park, incredible location being 5 miles to downtown and approximately the same to the Sunset Corridor, to mention just some.
The architectural integrity and standards that Forest Heights was founded on remain intact and have created a unique development that is able to stand the test of time. Everything included in Forest Heights was chosen with a purpose. The Forest Heights logo, for example, represents the 12 different tribes on Nauru and the Marshalls have carefully chosen streetlights and features that represent the deep roots Forest Heights holds in the development of the Portland Metro area. It is these thoughtful decisions and investment in the attention to detail that has landed Forest Heights a number of awards including MAME awards from the Home Builders Association and a Lifetime Achievement Neighborhood Builder Award for George Marshall himself.