Frost persisted on the plants and sidewalks late Thursday morning, and the group of people gathering for a groundbreaking ceremony in Hillsboro huddled together under heat lamps, their breath visible in the icy air.
Still, the mood was a festive one, with developers and government partners smiling and joking as they delivered speeches and posed with a row of golden shovels to commemorate an important step in the Platform District development.
Upon completion, the Platform District in Hillsboro's Orenco Station neighborhood will include five mixed-use buildings, constructed by Vancouver, Wash.-based developer Holland Partners Group.
Platform 14 was the first of the district's buildings to be completed, opening its doors to tenants and businesses November 2012. The second building, Tessera, will have a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Feb. 1, said Clyde Holland, founder of Holland Partners.
Thursday's groundbreaking was for the three final installments in the district: Central, East, and West. The new construction, like its companions, will feature ground-floor retail, a variety of housing units and on-site structured parking.
The Platform District is centered around the MAX Orenco/NW 231st Ave. station. While a chain-link fence currently separates the two, the final development intends to integrate seamlessly with the rail line, with the station a moment's walk from the Central building's doors.
"The transit line is already well-used because of the existing housing density in Orenco," said Metro Councilor Kathryn Harrington, whose district includes Hillsboro. "Now, we're adding more amenities, making the area a destination."
A focal point of the remaining development is a plaza, intended to promote socializing and gathering. The city will own the plaza and manage events in the space.
Gary Vance, Holland Partners' development director, said he considered the active public plaza one of the site's most exciting features.
"We've talked with the city's parks department about public movie nights, festivals, farmers markets," Vance said. "We've been working on this vision for years – to make this an urban node in a suburban location."
The Platform District fits as flawlessly as a puzzle piece within the larger context of Orenco Station, a meticulously planned neighborhood along the light rail line that is internationally renowned for its achievements as a high-density, pedestrian-friendly community.
Metro's Transit-Oriented Development program, which uses public money to spark private investment in mixed-use development near transit lines, contributed $700,000 to the Platform District's construction.
Holland declined to disclose the total project cost, citing a confidentiality agreement with Japanese funding partner Sekisui House Limited.
The development was approved for a vertical housing tax credit, deferring 60-80 percent of the site's property tax for the first 10 years. Meanwhile, Holland said, the buildings will be generating $30 million in tax revenue for the city above what a low-density development in the same location would provide.
Holland estimated the three final installments of the Platform District will open in 2015.