By now the secret is out. The City of Hillsboro is the biggest player in the rampant drive to build out the Tualatin Plains and grab every job in the State. Thousands of acres were annexed into the Urban Growth Boundary as a part of the Grand Bargain, with the intention that Hillsboro would expand that area for “High Paying Jobs” as developers and employers needed the land. This was the largest annexation of Industrial land to happen in the State of Oregon, and a very important move to make sure our State could compete for jobs looking to move or expand in the Region.
What was not planned nor anticipated was that Data Centers would rush in and buy up a majority of the available sites. Not only have 15 such sites been bought, but it has happened in the blink of an eye. And these users take from the economy, use massive amounts of power and millions of gallons of water; and they do so without employing as many people as a local Burger King.
This appears to have created some real concern at City Hall with the feeling that the good sites would be all gone when an actual jobs creator comes along. That has spurred the Hillsboro Economic Development team to aggressively pursue land purchases of their own. This allows them to negotiate with and attract large employers and at the same time freeze out more data centers from coming in.
The Herald has covered these storylines in the past; read up:
The City has access to almost $180,000,000 in funds that it is using to develop the North Hillsboro Industrial area and that comes to them through Tax Increment Financing or TIF funds. This money is derived from Tax Revenues that will come from the future earnings on new corporate facilities after they are built; the downside is that schools, roads, fire, police, and other public needs will go without. Some of that money, $22,000,000, was used to buy land North of Evergreen Road for a user that was only known as Project BaT until recently. The Herald reported that this user was/is Hitachi and that they will employ 300 to 400 people.
The City has now sold a large part of the land it bought to Hitachi, and they are installing streets and services using the same TIF financing. It appears that Hitachi land was sold at taxpayer costs in exchange for bringing the jobs to Hillsboro. There are certainly more tax incentives being offered, which is the norm here.
Fresh off of that real estate transaction, word has come to the Herald that the City is under contract to purchase the Erdman Farm off of Meek Road. That 60-plus acre parcel is part of the Hillsboro Tech Park, and with neighboring 250 acres (held by 6 adjacent owners) the Erdman site is perhaps the crown jewel left in the crown of the hottest industrial area in the Pacific NW. Controlling the Erdman site means controlling the future of the beautiful lands along US 26 and Meek Road. It means having the center parcel with the best access to sewer and water, and infrastructure, all of which will be crucial to the next big thing. In many ways, the City staff needed to do this to preserve these sites from another data center, Amazon hub, or another user that would waste the potential of the site. This site is one we believe to be the last great site!
Here is a promo video Hillsboro made for the Hillsboro Tech Park a few years ago.
The Herald sent a list of questions to the City of Hillsboro to confirm if the City was under contract as well as to establish if the City was going after the rest of the landholdings adjacent to the Erdman site. Other questions included if the City had a user in mind and if plans were available. The response was a decisive one.
” If and when any transactions are finalized, then the information will be available to the public.”
Sort of sounds like the City has made offers and is negotiating a deal. We can all assume the answer is yes.
Based on our research, we know that adjacent landowners have received offers but have not agreed on a price. Land in the area is quickly appreciating, and Industrial land has risen from $250,000 per acre to as much as $600,000 per acre in recent years. The sites in the area are being pursued from $7 to $8 dollars per square foot ($280K to $320K per acre), but many brokers believe the landowners would be better served by asking $10 per square foot. Not to worry; the market will work itself out.
Questions abound for the #Woke citizen who is not focused on the immediate benefits of more jobs.
Is this healthy? Should our City be the driving force behind hurried development? Are we giving away our available precious lands now and foregoing future needs? Are we in a hurry to push for more jobs while our infrastructure can not handle what we have now? And what of our housing needs? These new jobs do in fact cause housing prices to rise pushing more and more of our local people out of the market and out of the community. In turn they will commute to Hillsboro everyday to work and home at night to communities they can afford to live. That outcome has a horrible effect on people and on the environment. Is this the ultimate gentrification of the largest scale?
Rumours Abound of a Big Fish
Our staff includes people in high-tech capacities, and we have contributors who work in the tech sector. This move by Hillsboro may just represent business as usual. But our sources have been providing more than a few informational touches that indicate something bigger is up. Is the original Project Azalea user finally arriving? Speculation that Taiwan Semiconductor, Apple, or another chip maker would come to the Silicon Forest has run hot and cold for years. If they do come, this site is really the only option, as they will need hundreds of acres. And the recent expansion in the City by Microsoft has led to more than a few people postulating that they could be making a move. We have a stronger feeling that these thoughts may be true based on the number of inputs we have received, but nothing is official.
No matter what happens in North Hillsboro and on the historic Tualatin Plains, where pioneers first settled the Pacific NW, and the Atfalati people lived for 15,000 years, this is a crucial time. To go and see what is happening all at once will leave you breathless, ill, shocked, excited, or a combination of all of those. Historic Oaks are falling, previously undisturbed soils are being excavated, historic buildings are destroyed, and machines are ruling the landscape.
This is a time to watch and reflect and give serious thought to what we are doing.
Here are some photos we shot the past year to document these changes and inform all of you.
Have you got information to report about this story or another matter happening in our fine city? Email us confidentially and anonymously at email@example.com or call our editor anytime at 503-799-8383.