Metro Councilor Kathryn Harrington, Metro President Tom Hughes, Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey and developer Dwight Unti break ground on 4th Main.
Reporting from Hillsboro
The whipped cream held its peaks and the speakers the crowd as the temperature broke 90 degrees Monday for the late afternoon groundbreaking of 4th Main, the first transit-oriented development in downtown Hillsboro.
The proposed four-story, 71 unit mixed-use residential and commercial development will offer studio, loft, and one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments at market-rates for residents seeking an urban lifestyle, close to amenities and transit.
The development will be located on the site of the former Wells Fargo Bank building, at the corner of Southeast Fourth Avenue and East Main Street. The existing structure will be redeveloped for commercial retail use with additional ground floor retail and residential units built on the site of the building's parking lot.
"Residents can have the urban living experience of downtown Hillsboro and live right on their own Main Street," says Dwight Unti, president of Tokola Properties, project developer. "You can walk right to services and businesses without leaving the community."
Fourteen year journey to groundbreaking
Owners of the Venetian Theatre welcome 4th Main developer Tokola Properties.
A mix of Hillsboro officials, business and community leaders, city planning staff and representatives from every level of government, gathered July 9 on the hot asphalt of the parking lot to celebrate the long journey to the first step of construction – a ceremonial shovel of dirt.
Strawberry shortcake and sparkling apple juice made the ceremony a celebration but the high spirits of the crowd came from the culmination of a journey that started 14 years ago.
Metro and Hillsboro purchased the property during the planning of the Westside MAX light rail line in 1998, with the idea to hold on to it until it was financially feasible to do a project like 4th Main.
"This is not a build-and-bolt project," said Denzil Scheller, owner of the Venetian Theatre and Bistro on downtown's Main Street. "They're looking at investing in our community for the long term."
The Federal Transit Administration approved the land acquisition for the joint development project and Metro's plans to connect the development to the MAX station with pedestrian-friendly design elements.
A transit information center will be located in the lobby of the new building and way-finding signs installed to direct transit riders to the station, information center and key destinations in the area.
The celebration marked the end of a 14 year project-in-the-making and the start of construction on 4th Main.
Pedestrian connections to the MAX station
Street trees in grates, ornamental streetlights and paving treatments that match the existing features along downtown Hillsboro's Main Street are planned, along with a public courtyard with tables, chairs, benches and weather canopies, accessible to pedestrians from Main Street.
"Downtowns are important places to communities like Hillsboro that are growing fast and growing diverse," said Tom Hughes, Metro president and former mayor of Hillsboro. "We have to have a place where we can all come together."
The 4th Main development is a project of Metro's Transit-Oriented Development program that uses limited amounts of public funding to attract private investment for mixed-use, higher density housing and retail projects near transit.
The development will be steps from the MAX Blue Line and just north of the Hillsboro Transit Center, which is served by light rail and bus lines.
Economic impact of new development
The TOD program's investment of $540,000 leverages more than $15 million in private capital for construction. The development is projected to create 140 jobs and $25 million in new spending during construction.
Household dollars saved by transit ridership and living within walking distance of needed amenities leave families with more income to spend on local goods and services. The 125 new residents anticipated for 4th Main at full occupancy will deliver additional spending to downtown businesses and services, supporting 52 new, ongoing jobs.
"What's exciting is providing market-ready apartments for people of all ages who want to live in a historic downtown area," said Metro Councilor Kathryn Harrington, councilor for District 4, which includes Hillsboro. "(Downtown Hillsboro) has a lot of great shops and restaurants but not enough downtown living – 4th Main delivers."
The former Wells Fargo Bank building will be redeveloped for commercial retail use.
Investment in site cleanup
The history of the site stretches back to pre-1900s and through the years, has been home to a livery stable, gas station, residential dwellings and the Wells Fargo Bank.
At some point in the timeline, the soil became contaminated from a petroleum-based product. Cleanup of the low-level contamination will be part of the site prep. The removal and environmentally controlled disposal of the contaminated soil is expected to be complete by the end of August said Bob Williams, hydrologist and project manager for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.
"There will be underground parking beneath the new construction, so we need to dig it up anyway," says Williams. "That makes it a simple cleanup."
The DEQ issued Tokola Properties a Prospective Purchasers Agreement that kept the project moving forward by removing any liability to the developer in return for an action that demonstrated substantial public benefit.
The DEQ accepted the development of the property with its inherent economic public benefits as satisfying the agreement's requirement.
"They're taking an underutilized property and creating employment potential that's beneficial to the community," Williams said.
Construction is expected to take 18 months.