Editors Note: My love for the downtown Hillsboro business district dates back to a childhood spent there and an adult life dedicated to defending the old buildings and trying to preserve them. The term “Historic Downtown Hillsboro” which is used by the City and others to describe the area is just that. Words. Five buildings downtown are somewhat protected because they were identified back in the 1980s as Cultural Resources. Beyond that, there have been some funds made available by City programs for storefront restorations, and that has helped. But that is not tied to authentic historic work. The fact is our business and ownership community has a history of not protecting history. When new projects like 4th and Main are built they have no requirement to look historic, which is sad and a big missed opportunity. So lest you think that I am all for a modern rebuild of downtown, think again. I will continue to defend History and its benefits to our town. I am equally a realist and know that our businesses will not survive and be there for us to enjoy if we do not look ahead at what is happening and what can happen. I hope we can have growth and remain historically relevant. That will take a commitment by everyone. As you read this story I hope you agree,
We all know that 2020 was a brutal year in so many ways. COVID-19 was a destructive force upon all of us but for most, the storm has been weathered. Many hope that 2021 will be a comeback year. I know we sure do, but it is still too early to tell. Watching this all happen across the Tualatin Valley has been hard and the storylines have been many. How could businesses make it? Would unemployment benefits and grants save jobs? Will the 90,000 plus Oregonians behind on rent be evicted as Governor Brown’s tenant protections lapse? Time will answer all of these questions. What we are finding is as expected; there will be many losers and many winners before this pandemic is over.
One of the biggest winners may be the downtown Hillsboro business district. A number of events are coalescing at the same time to take the area to a level it has not seen in decades if ever. There are a number of reasons I see this happening.
Merril Gardens – 4th and Main
The Press: A classic contemporary building at near the heart of Hillsboro. Location: Hillsboro, Oregon | Units: 141 A classic contemporary building near the heart of Hillsboro, Oregon’s historic downtown, MG at Hillsboro offers density while remaining sensitive to the adjacent single family neighborhood and businesses in both scale and program. This assisted living facility features high levels of street transparency, retail and pedestrian interaction, and excellent amenities for residents. Double height retail along Main Street steps back from the sidewalk to allow for retail spill out or sidewalk seating. Classic dark brick and detailing along the street tie into the historical flavor of the neighborhood, while a generous roof deck at the upper level offers views of downtown activities. Along 4th Street, residential dining also opens onto the street to encourage exterior-interior interaction and connection. The building is designed to integrate seamlessly into the area, encouraging residents to enjoy the highly walkable downtown area and remain active participants in Hillsboro’s lively community
Photo from City of Hillsboro Website – Land Use Casefile for approval
Dirk’s Take: Like it or not this upscale retirement community will bring upwards of 200-300 people to the downtown core as residents and employees. Merril builds upscale projects and this building will join 4th and Main as an anchor on the East end of the Main Street core. People will shop and eat downtown- this is all part of the economics needs to bolster our downtown business. Will it be built this year? Maybe- COVID really put the crunch on the care center and retirement home markets. But this year should be the comeback. Here is a link to the City approval granted in 2019-
The Venetian Restaurant
The Venetian Ballroom
Photo Dirk Knudsen
The Press: NW Event Management Group is proud to announce the addition of live event production at the Venetian in Downtown Hillsboro, Oregon. As one of our many specialties, event production will once again be a staple of the Hillsboro community. We intend to bring culture and arts back in a whole new way. The 4,100sq ft renovated ballroom will feature top-of-the-line production, state-of-the-art equipment, unbeatable services, and unmatched event support. For more information about our past in live event production, visit , or follow @nw_events on Instagram.
Dirk’s Take: The facilities are incredible and with the recent opening we are hearing how many people are loving the food and the experience. Dining is open upstairs and downstairs now and reservations are being made. Pricing is moderate to upper end but the experience and the food are designed to be unlike any other on the westside of Portland. Time will tell but it does appear that Hillsboro now has a new player for the best in the City. Diners will become shoppers and vice versa. We believe diners will be impressed and will be likely to invest, shop, and return. Located right in the middle of downtown, between 2nd and 3rd, The Venetian will draw new people and feed the merchants a new clientele. Add in events, which owner John Lee is great at running, and this property will pulse with people and life. We give The Venetian high marks for maintaining historical aspects both inside and out. The decision to save the iconic neon sign has been a win-win! This business has already started to impact downtown for the best. Check them out at https://www.venetianhillsboro.com/
Noble Hop Bier Haus – 370 East Main Street
Photo- Dirk Knudsen
Dirks Take: As with every great business district, regulars expect great coffee and great beer. Noble Hop opened before COVID and was just developing a great following when the curtain fell. But no one nor anything was going to stop popular owners Neal Glaske and Mike Soto (Pizzario) from staying alive and succeeding. With a fantastic line of on-tap beers and ciders, Noble Hop shines. Add to that a very large selection of beers to go and there is nothing left to want. The courtyard at Nobel Hop holds 40 plus people and they have grown their following through the pandemic. This bodes well for them as we begin to come out of this situation. With a young visionary owner, we expect decades of success. They are an anchor pub that will support the growth that is happening.
Block 67 – The Key To Long Term Success
Photo Courtesy of the City of Hillsboro – Community Meeting for Block 67
The Press: Making Downtown Hillsboro a more vibrant, livable place continues to be a top community priority. The redevelopment of the Block 67 will help further meet the community’s goals for Downtown Hillsboro as well as enhance the connection between Hillsboro’s Health and Education District and the historic Downtown.
Dirk’s Take: There is no doubt that the former Hanks grocery lot, which now sits empty, is a major key to the success of downtown. The much-anticipated master plan has never been built despite the fact the City of Hillsboro, which owns the property, had a partner moving ahead in 2019. The cities informational page suggests that 2021 will be the year that a new partner will be courted once again. With almost 400,000 SF of mixed medical, university, and residential uses, this property will forever change downtown when it happens. So many people will live and work here that it will create its own economy. That will spill over to the downtown area which this project flanks. Interest rates are so low now that if this project does not happen in the next 2 years it will likely take much longer. My sources say this goliath will move ahead within the next 12 to 15 months. We shall see.
Bag & Baggage Productions, HART Theater,
The Walters Cultural Arts Center & The formation of the Cultural Arts District
Dirk’s Take: The arts are alive and well and the community is moving ahead with the hiring of a Cultural Arts District Director. The Cultural Arts District was approved by the City Council in 2019 and is beginning to move ahead. This new designation is going to allow a focus on funding and opportunities for the arts from all disciplines. Have a look at this information. This is all going to begin to manifest itself in 2021, just as we come out of COVID. Bag and Baggage on Main Street is poised to explode onto the scene with live events that could push the boundaries of excellence- the actors are ready and people will no doubt be ready too. HART Theater on Washington Street is no doubt geared up and anxious to bring their shows to the people once again! The Walters Center will be ready to go with music, art, and events aplenty. These players may be the major ones but a host of galleries and artists are fighting to survive as we look to enter Spring, and they are an incredible bunch. Painters, musicians, sculptures, photographers, dancers, jewelers, and a host of creatives have been here for years and their number has grown. I believe the second half of 2021 will be remembered as the time that art and artists took the reigns and brought us all back from the brink and I will be cheering them on. We all will be. This is the time we will all remember in my estimation as the rallying point that the people became the biggest part of the story of historic downtown.
OHSU TAKES OVER TUALITY HOSPITAL
Dirk Knudsen – Photo
Dirks Take: The Tuality Hospital and medical clinics that so many of us have known over the years are all but gone. The name has even changed. Nationally respected OHSU is in charge and they are growing the hospital and all of the offerings here in Hillsboro. To have them as a central employer and community provider and partner is HUGE! It needs to be stated that they are growing and that growth will bring them to the Southern edges of downtown. Those employed there will live, work, and shop here and those salaries will allow for spending and that money will fuel the engines of commerce. This is a very big development that is only this year really being felt and realized in the immediate community. Read More-
The Collective Market – Corner of 3rd & Lincoln
The Press: Collective Market will be a local and scratch-made grocer specializing in fresh pasta and sauces, fresh bagels, candied nuts, deli salads, dips, spreads, pickles and high-quality, locally made goods. The market will also showcase local vendors and farmers of the greater Hillsboro community.
Located in the heart of downtown Hillsboro, we are currently awaiting permits and are in the progress to open Spring 2021.
Photo – Dirk Knudsen
Dirk’s Take: It has been a long long time since we have had a grocery located downtown. This business will provide an incredible array of products- both cooked foods, ready-to-eat meals, and groceries. Local and carefully procured fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts, and everything in-between will be available. This is going to be a game-changer and the opening is happening soon. Very soon. This is going to be a powerful pulse point of energy, commerce, merriment, food and beverage experiences, and more. Mindy Simmons (Decadent Creations) has the Golden touch and her skills and ownership ensure this will be a big hit with the locals!
US Bank Redevelopment – 2nd and Main
Photo – G Earth
Dirk’s Take: The land and buildings are for sale for $3.3 Million. It has long been believed that the key to the success of downtown rises and sets with rooftops. John Southgate, who worked for the City a few years back, was an expert analyst. His internal work led to some very accurate and detailed reports that indicated that more residences were needed for true business success and a vibrant downtown. The 1 Acre land that the US Bank sits on at 2nd and Main is the most highly prized property in downtown Hillsboro. There is room for 150 to 200 units of housing and parking. Also room for main floor commercial too. With zoning that can support 6 to 7 stories on flat land with full services, this site is hot! One problem – it has never been for sale. OH BUT COVID TOOK CARE OF THAT!
US Banks announced last Fall they were closing 31 branches. That led to making decisions about what to do- it did not take long to decide to sell this branch. It was listed not quite a month ago and now we are told it may already be in escrow. This property can be developed soon and it can be something very special. I have no info on who is buying it beyond an obscure reference. But consultants have been on the land in the building and it appears things are moving. If this property develops into something in the way of mixed-use downtown will be enjoying quite a renaissance! This will be a game-changer- let’s see what happens. I hope it will have a design that supports our Historic downtown- that is the goal for sure.
Now I was not able to mention the dozens of great businesses that are downtown now. They have done the heavy lifting and made the downtown what it is. For every new business, there are 2 or 3 who paved the way and have fought it out for years to make it great. I, like many, and saddened and conflicted to see older structures give-way to development. Many is the time I have fought for preservation, and I believe no building in Downton Hillsboro should be destroyed or seriously altered if there is a path forward to preserve it. City codes currently only protect a handful of buildings. If businesses fail then buildings fall and are lost all the same. It is in this environment that we must choose to move ahead smartly and cautiously. And no matter what we want, the investors and developers are coming – in fact they are already here. This year will be a transformational one and I think a year where major and lasting changes happen – a year where Downtown Hillsboro takes a giant step forward.
Here is a map of New Businesses that have opened in this last year in Red; larger transformational projects in purple.
Map Dirk Knudsen
The Herald wishes you all well. May 2021 be a comeback year for you and yours and a chance for joy, health, and personal growth to take center stage!