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.