A longtime, familiar structure along downtown Hillsboro’s Main Street is gone. At this time, a crew is disposing of the demolition debris on the lot at the northeast corner of 4th Avenue and E. Main Street.
The parcel of land, until now addressed as 409 E. Main, was formerly home to a Bank of America branch. B of A wasn’t the first occupant, though. The colonnaded, Colonial style building crowned by a distinctive, central cupola was originally commissioned by the Portland-based Benj. Franklin Savings & Loan to house one of their branches and was purposely designed to evoke mental pictures of George and Martha Washington’s Virginia residence, Mount Vernon.
In keeping with the theme of the organization’s name, a number of Benj. Franklin branches were designed to replicate landmark buildings of the U.S. Colonial era. A twin to the Hillsboro structure still stands on E. 11th Avenue in downtown Eugene. Additionally, a particularly grand, red brick branch, reproducing the spirit of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall complete with its soaring clock tower, survives at SE Stark Street and 102nd Avenue in Portland. While Hillsboro’s Main Street Bank of America branch closed in August 2017, the Eugene and Portland facilities described above remain active B of A branches.
Although exhibiting a lot of architectural character, the now-demolished bank building wasn’t old enough to be considered historic. The structure’s removal, however, enables a new chapter in the unfolding history of downtown Hillsboro as a whole to begin on the same site.
Merrill Gardens will be a seven-story development—by the present standards of downtown Hillsboro, colossal and practically a high-rise. The contemporary-styled building will feature double-height commercial spaces along Main Street with enough façade set-back for tenants’ activities (restaurant, cafe, retail, etc.) to extend outward, alfresco, without encroaching on the sidewalk. The upper floors will be 140 units of apartment-style assisted living for seniors. Detailed, dark brick cladding at street level will be a tip of the hat to vintage building styles and pays homage to historic downtown Hillsboro. For the Merrill Gardens residents, the plans include below-grade parking and a roof deck providing vistas of the surrounding area.
In addition to the former bank property, the Merrill project’s footprint includes a smaller, neighboring lot to the north. A house occupying the smaller parcel of land, 164 NE 4th Avenue, was also just torn down.
Attracting Merrill Gardens is a significant accomplishment for the City of Hillsboro. The municipal government’s downtown economic development priorities seek higher density and increased residential population. The goal is to foster and support an “18-hour downtown” (one that is vibrant and active all day and into the night—but not all night).
The company, Merrill Gardens, is headquartered at Seattle and has developed and operates senior assisted living facilities in 20 states.
You can see the template in Old Town Beaverton: Thriving breweries, bars, shops, and restaurants, a solid core of services, and a walkable footprint. This project has the potential to not only bring more of that kind of commercial activity downtown, but tie it to the Walter Center and finally make a cohesive arts and entertainment district (with both The Vault and the Hart in walking distance. The more difficult task? Expanding that reach south a bit. Rune and Board, the bowling alley, and the barber shops and event halls are trying… and 1st and 3rd street businesses are slowly stretching down that way, but Hillsboro still needs the way finding signage, the street closures, and the events that tie it all together. The city’s closer that it thinks to all of the above, and new additions like the food carts, La Mixteca and the Collective Market are showing what’s possible even under these circumstances.
I remember when the Benj. Savings and Loan was built. My mom and I opened accounts to get their dishware set.
About the 4th & Main project – I see you said nothing about the Giant Sequoia that stood tall in the back corner of the estate they cut down like there was no tomorrow!! Was it not on a register of some sort for greatest/tallest tree’s in Hillsboro/Washington County!?! 😭🤬. Any way’s it’s gone now and I believe they did not even (correct me if I’m wrong) salvage any of it!!🌲 And I don’t want to hear that they needed to do so for the below grade parking, I’m sure there could have been a better way of dealing with such an icon!! Thank you for letting me vent my bitching I’m done!!
Most people who require assisted living aren’t going to be walking around and shopping. To bad there isn’t going be independent living as well. I’d sign up in a heart beat.
MERRILL GARDENS AT HILLSBORO
Hillsboro, Oregon – Opening in 2023
Located in Hillsboro, Oregon, this community will offer independent and assisted living apartments along with memory care apartments. Near the heart of Hillsboro’s historic downtown, Merrill Gardens at Hillsboro will provide a variety of amenities for residents, including a rooftop deck offering views of downtown.
“Although exhibiting a lot of architectural character, the now-demolished bank building wasn’t old enough to be considered historic.“. ~ Thank goodness! Since I can remember when it opened, hopefully this means I’m not historic either! Mom made us deposit our money from picking berries and cukes, to get the place settings. I still have a few pieces and use it to this day.