The New Year is here today and we happily say goodbye and good riddance to 2020. As we look in the rearview mirror let’s wrap up 2020 by looking back on the Hillsboro high (and low) points that have made it a year like no other.
The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic loomed over the year like nothing else ever has. At the
beginning of March, the Kaiser Permanente Westside Medical Center in Hillsboro became the site
of the first recognized case in Oregon making our town ground zero. Nationwide, the number of cases and deaths began to rise. To slow the virus’s spread, social distancing, facemasks, and lifestyle modifications became
the norm and Hillsboro was no exception.
City services and facilities designed around gathering places (like the Senior Center, Shute Park
Aquatic & Recreation Center, and the Hillsboro Public Library) were shuttered for a time. Except
for the Senior Center, operations ultimately resumed but with notably reduced and limited
services. For example, the library reopened offering curbside, drive-through pick up, and drop
off only. Later, offerings expanded to include some limited services inside the library building.
2020 saw civic celebrations disrupted, too. Both the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Hillsboro
Rotary’s Fourth of July Parade were canceled for the first time in their long, storied runs (the
former since 1979 and the latter, 1926). Determined that the show must go on, Downtown
Hillsboro Partnership, Hillsboro Tuesday Night Market, and the City of Hillsboro worked to bring
the annual Hillsboro Holly Days celebration and tree lighting ceremony to the community.
However, in observance of COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, the celebration was an online
broadcast event rather than the usual in-person mass gathering at the Civic Center Plaza. The
winter ice-skating rink at Orenco Station was another annual tradition Hillsboro citizens had to do
without. The City filled the void in part by sponsoring an automobile drive-through holiday light
show extravaganza, ‘Lightopia: An Illuminated Journey,’ held at the Gordon Faber Recreation
An economic downturn caused by the pandemic made it necessary for Hillsboro businesses
large and small to hunker down and tap new wells of creativity in order to weather the storm.
In spite of the rough seas, some intrepid souls launched new enterprises. The historic Venetian
Theatre received a new owner (John Lee) who extensively renovated the place to provide downtown
Hillsboro with an events center and restaurant; The Venetian. A new community newspaper, The Hillsboro
Herald, was founded to provide a local voice to the people of Hillsboro in an effort to emulate The Argus of yore. The Collective Market at 173 NE 3rd Avenue began the journey to open this February bringing a grocery, deli, and local food offering to our downtown. This monumental effort by Mindy Simmons (Decadent Creations) is going to be the cornerstone in a 2021 comeback like we have never seen before and will quickly become a community hub for fresh foods, produce, and fun events.
Arcade 2084, an authentic 1980s video game offering, opened on Main Street opened just before the Pandemic hit. Their tenacity to stay open through all of this has been awesome to watch. They like so many other businesses in Hillsboro need your help! Salons (North, Dida, and others) opened in some great numbers along 2nd and 3rd avenues making the area the Salon District if you will. Blitz Card Room is preparing to open a card and collectibles business on Main as we write this story. There are many others thriving including Noble Hop brew pub owned by Mike Soto (Pizzario) and his partner Niel Glaske. It has become an instant favorite for many. And we covered the Carts On Main food cart pod that will be coming soon; that has so many people excited and licking their chops!
And we Salute all the hundreds of Hillsboro businesses like Hales Restaurant, Deep Space Brewing, Vertigo Brewing, Champions Bar and Grill, Reedville Cafe, Orenco Station Bar and Grill, Insomnia coffee, Ava Roastaria, Schmiza Public House, Malosi Island Grill, and the list goes on and on and on! How have you even stayed open? We are in awe and everyone should try to #ShopLocal and #SupportLocal and make a difference.
This year hasn’t been without political interest and controversy too. Hillsboro City Council voted in March that the City would not comply with ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) subpoenas. Already, in 2017, the Council had declared Hillsboro a ‘Sanctuary City.’ The murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor brought 2020 the Black Lives Matter movement. Protests erupted everywhere and demonstrations and rallies followed with several taking place in Hillsboro. Controversy erupted after the first rally led to unanswered questions about local police tactics; a question the Hillsboro City Council is grappling with right now. As if all of that was not enough we saw both Water rates and Sewer/Storm rates increased making day-to-day living costs increase. Other citywide costs are increasing as well at a time when the City budgets indicate we are headed for rockier times. Go figure- how #2020.
HOUSING and HOMELESSNESS- At Crisis Mode- To be blunt this is the biggest shock of the year. In the middle of the worst Pandemic we have seen in a Century our housing prices continued to rise. By year-end, the RMLS reported that Hillsboro housing prices rose by 6% over 2019. Experts predicted a downturn with the cost of homeownership gaining ground but with average citywide housing costs reaching $443,000, there appears to be no relief in sight. As 6 new data centers and several factory expansions flank Hillsboro’s northern edge housing prices are almost guaranteed to rise. Investors are moving in like sharks in bloody water – locals are advised to do anything and everything they can to buy a home or real estate as the best hedge against a skyrocketing housing cost future. Our City staff is trying to stop the gentrification here and successfully opened Willow Creek on Baseline and 185th where affordable units opened. More are coming in 2021 at 53rd Avenue. The reality is that people are here working. Hillsboro is now the economic engine of the State of Oregon. Every road into the City is plugging up in the morning and backing up at night. We are what economists call a “jobs town” and in towns like that housing goes up!
Homelessness- the Unhoused: Aside from Covid is this not the most pressing issue in our town? There is no corner of Hillsboro where this crisis is not evident. Here in Orenco, the problem has been prevalent for years. Same with downtown Hillsboro and the area near TV Highway where Home Depot and Sunset Esplanade meet. West of town at Winco and the Pioneer Cemetary is another spot. We see them out there in the rain and cold. Garbage piling up. Human waste and shopping carts. Cold, hungry, and struggling the numbers in the “unhoused” population has swollen her in greater Hillsboro as well as Cornelius and Forest Grove. Jeremy Toevs, Director at Open Door Counseling, said this is the biggest growth in the unhoused community they have ever seen and it is getting decidedly worse. They are the longest-standing service organization and its lineage and work now decades-old earns them the right to speak. Toevs says 2021 has to be the year we make a move as a community or things can get even more serious. The City is making some moves as this article is being written and while very little has been done thus far on this impossible problem they have help coming we hear and that is the Hillsboro way! Our article on Camp Hope, also known as McKay by homeless advocates, stirred phone calls and controversy but it did generate thousands of reads. People reacted and things are happening- in the end, isn’t that the goal of a free press?
Shiny & Awesome Stuff – Let there be NO DOUBT- Hillsboro’s rise to one of the best and most liveable cities in the region is very real. We are a city of great riches. How lucky are we? We are a City of great abundance and have award-winning parks, a world-class baseball stadium, and sports complex, expanding natural areas and trails, an incredible City Hall and Civic Center, the Walters Cultural Arts Center, a light rail system, the Orenco Station, INTEL Ronler Acres, Amber Glenn, Tanasbourne, the new South Hillsboro, and a very good schools system. Add to that our City-owned HiLight Internet now active and coming to Hillsboro with 1 Gig speeds in the $60 per month range! That is awesome and may make us a big-time Zoom-Town. Everywhere we look are signs of a city on the rise. In 1981 (40 years ago) Hillsboro High School graduated its largest and biggest class ever. Glencoe High graduated its first class in 1982 and at that time the population was 21,000 people. Now four decades later we have hit 110,000. That is a 500% growth rate. Based on that Hillsboro, Oregon will hit 500,000 people in less than 40 years, and while that is hard to imagine there are no controls in place to alter that path. Wow.
There is no bigger addition to the City in 2021 than the WINGSPAN at the county fairgrounds. The event space will bring millions of dollars to Washington County and our City. It is hard to argue that this was not a highlight of 2020 and there certainly were big events canceled all year but that will be short-lived. Look for conventions, concerts, cultural festivals, trade shows, and more to come fast and furious as the Wing gets rolling in 2021.
Hold on a minute though! While Washington County showed off that project the good people of Hillsboro flexed some financial might by agreeing to build a world-class community center and in 2020 Hidden Creek became a reality. 51,000 SF awaits the people of Hillsboro in 2021 and this place is awesome! Fitness buffs are going to love this place and there are meeting rooms and more offered; all located right in the center of our City at 53rd and Baseline. We can not wait to see what is possible.
Indisputably, 2020 has been a rough year for us all. For those who have had their lives taken by a horrible, new virus, we collectively grieve. For the families and friends of the deceased, we collectively embrace you with all our warmth and care. But through the pain and toughness that this year put upon us we also saw so many bright spots and acts of kindness of hope. From mask-makers to community cheerleaders to the wonderful children of Hillsboro doing acts of bravery and kindness; 2020 did not kill our spirits. We have learned how to help and how to support each other and in many, the very best humanity shone through. To all of you, we give many thanks.
This year we hope/plan for the return of Tuesday Night Market, Farmers Market, Art Walk, the Washington County Fair, the 4th of July Parade, and High School sports! Oh, and the Hillsboro Hops will be back with twice as many games having moved up two divisions in the minor leagues too! Walks in the park, family picnics, M&M Market, and all the great cultural and civic events that make Hillsboro so amazing!