City breaks ground on Community Center at 53rd Avenue
In 2006, the city of Hillsboro started working on plans for a community center on Northeast 53rd Avenue.
More than a decade, an economic recession and a failed capital construction bond later, the city finally broke ground on the center on Wednesday, May 29.
A celebration at the site — directly across from 53rd Avenue Community Park, 300 N.E. 53rd Ave. — drew dozens on Wednesday to kick off construction of the community center, which is expected to open in 2020. The $35 million community center will be the largest Parks & Recreation project in the city's history. The center will be double the size of the city's other community center, the Shute Park Aquatic and Recreation Center, better known as the SHARC, near downtown.
Gwynne Pitts, Chairwoman of the Hillsboro Parks & Recreation Commission, has been working on the project since its inception in 2006. She said Wednesday was an "amazing day" for Hillsboro.
The center will be home to everything from summer camps to birthday parties, basketball games, pickleball matches, weddings, and other community events, but the center is more than just events, Pitts said.
"Community centers like this aren't just pretty and wood and glass," Pitts told the crowd of supporters. "They're not just a fitness center. They are a place that strengthens mind, body and soul. They are community gathering places where we can feel connected, feel safe to grow and learn, to rest and relax and recover. Importantly, they are places to make lifelong memories with friends, families, teammates and our hometown."
The 13 years it took to reach Wednesday's groundbreaking haven't been easy, Pitts said, but they have been worth it. In 2008, voters shot down a $44.5 million bond measure that would have paid for the community center and improved more than a half- dozen parks around the city. That defeat, coupled with the Great Recession, forced the city to shelve the project for years. The city began working on the project again in 2012, discussing possibilities to bring the project to reality.
Pitts and several others at Wednesday's groundbreaking wore T-shirts calling attention to "Phase Two" of the community center project: A swimming pool and aquatic center expected to be part of the designs. Advocates say the city's current SHARC facility is at capacity, and a second swim center is needed for citizens. The Community Center at 53rd Avenue was expected to include a pool and other aquatic elements, but those were cut due to costs.
The city has said it plans to build the swimming facilities at a later date in a planned second phase of the construction, but no timelines have been released for when that project would begin.
When finished, the Community Center at 53rd Avenue will be the first of its kind in the country to be built with cross-laminated timber. The process is made using multiple layers of lumber heated and pressed into large panels. The process is said to match the strength of steel at a lower cost and are better for the environment, proponent say.
Last year, First Tech Credit Union, up the road from the community center on Brookwood Avenue, made headlines as the largest cross-laminated timber structure in America when crews wrapped up construction of the five-story corporate headquarters.