Project fails to grab Bloomberg Mayors Challenge dollars

It’s back to the proverbial “drawing board” for the city of Hillsboro, as it now must decide where to get nearly $1.5 million to fund the first phase of its proposed GoPoint Mobility Hub Program.

The project failed to win any of the $9 million in prize money from the Bloomberg Mayors Challenge. Although the project was one of 20 finalists, it fell short when it was matched against proposals from five other cities. The grand prize of $5 million went to Providence, R.I. Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia and Santa Monica, Calif., each won $1 million for their respective proposals.

“We didn’t win, but we didn’t lose, either. There really was a lot of value in the process of competing. We really advanced the conversation and the idea,” said Peter Brandom, Hillsboro’s sustainability manager and the man who oversaw the city’s competitive submission.

The project is an attempt to tackle a common problem in suburban areas such as Hillsboro — the dependence on automobiles for work, shopping and recreating. It is intended to increase access to alternative modes of transportation for residents and commuters.

The Hillsboro City Council earlier agreed to proceed with the program even if it did not win any funding in the competition. The council designated the Bloomberg Mayors Challenge as one of its top 10 priorities for 2013 at its day-long retreat on Feb. 23.

After the city became a finalist, the application was revised in November following a meeting with other finalists and competition staff in New York. The revised application focused phase one of the project in the north central part of Hillsboro. That area was chosen because it illustrates the problem, but also offers the potential for finding a successful solution. The area includes concentrated residential areas such as the rapidly growing Orenco neighborhood, big employers including Intel and the upcoming new Kaiser Permanente hospital, retail centers such as The Streets and the Tanasbourne Mall, and Portland Community College’s Willow Creek campus. The area is also served by TriMet’s westside MAX line.

The revised application estimated the budget for the first two years of the project at just under $1.5 million. It said some of the funding and other support would come from the city of Hillsboro, TriMet, Metro and the state of Oregon. A number of businesses and community organizations have already agreed to partner on the project, including Intel, Kaiser Permanente, the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce, the Westside Economic Alliance, the Washington County Bicycle Transportation Coalition and Adelante Mujeres, which provides low-income housing support services.

Brandom said it is too late to seek city money for the project in next year’s budget, which is already being drafted. However, he plans to talk with competition staffers about other potential funding sources they might be aware of, including foundations and federal grants.