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Plans include residential units, a new medical center and retail spaces around the former site of Hank's Thriftway.

COURTESY IMAGE: CITY OF HILLSBORO - A graphic showing where Block 67 rests in downtown Hillsboro. Officials say this development is key for the city's long-term goals of connecting downtown to other neighborhoods. Plans to redevelop "Block 67," a central group of city blocks in Hillsboro that connect the historic downtown district to medical and educational centers, are moving ahead after years of pause.

The development is being heralded by Hillsboro officials for satisfying many of the city government's goals for the downtown core. It will include market-rate and affordable housing units, retail spaces, medical offices and a new grocery store.

"The site … is on a pretty important corridor of the Oak Baseline Corridor," said Hillsboro economic and community development manager Dan Dias. "It's a major vehicular and freight corridor. It also is an important pedestrian and bike corridor as well. So, from a connectivity standpoint, it is a large block."

Block 67 is bordered on one side by the historic downtown district and on the other by the educational and medical district — which includes the Tuality Community Hospital, Seventh Avenue Medical Plaza, the OHSU/Tuality Cancer Center and Pacific University's Hillsboro campus.

The property, which Hillsboro purchased back in 2016, was originally the site of Hank's Thriftway. The neighborhood grocery store closed in 2015. A year later, the city government bought the entire block for $4.8 million.

Hillsboro officials initially wanted to get a development proposal in place back in 2017, putting out a request for qualified developers. Dias said the city had an initial development team selected, but those plans fell through.

Then, the project was put on hold in 2020, due to rising construction costs and the uncertainties posed by COVID-19.

Now, the plan is back on and new developers have been selected: Rembold and Related Northwest. They've dubbed the proposed development "Viridian."

The project proposal, submitted to the city in February, aims for a late-summer 2023 start date for building, though officials caution that there are still lots of procedural and developmental hurdles to clear. The project is still in the conceptual phase, not the actual building phase.

The largest retail partner in the proposal is Fresh Foods, a grocery retailer originally based in Cannon Beach and Manzanita, which focuses on organic and environmentally conscious products. Other retail spaces will be built and renovated, and the proposal states that the accompanying plaza could host food trucks or other pop-up businesses, too.

On the residential side, the proposal includes 226 units of varied housing across two complexes that will be built on the block. There is also a separate 79-unit affordable housing complex that will be for households making 30% or 60% of the area's median income.

The plan also includes an 80,000-square-foot medical clinic, with active practices and educational spaces for students in the Hillsboro School District, Portland Community College and nearby Pacific University to get career-technical training in healthcare fields.

The total cost of the project so far has been pegged at more than $150 million, including all of these various components.

Dias said that while the development will be largely paid for by the private sector, Hillsboro officials could use public money to close the gap, or offer incentives to reduce development costs.

"We can sometimes use like urban renewal funding to help with land write-downs, so we might give them a reduced land cost or we can help with some of the system development charges," Dias said. "But ultimately, it'll be predominantly funded, built, operated and maintained and owned by private entities in the long term."

The project's estimated completion date is July 2025, though city officials stress that large-scale developments can run into hiccups along the way and the concept may change as more community meetings are held. The Viridian proposal has yet to come before Hillsboro's city planning commission, for example, and the City Council will weigh in whenever it comes time to sell the property.

This proposal was already developed using the results of a September 2021 community survey conducted by city officials to see what residents and businesses would like to see done with Block 67. The biggest hopes were that the development would provide more jobs, add green space to downtown Hillsboro, and improve connections between downtown and other neighborhoods.

Dias said officials are aiming for two more meetings where the public can weigh in on the proposal and help shape the future development. The first will likely be in late spring or early summer, with the second happening in fall after more of the details have been hashed out.

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