“Along with the road and power grid infrastructure, the new area will also need water pipes, with one of the main ones being the Willamette Water Supply, a 66-inch pipe extending from Wilsonville to Highway 26, passing right through South Hillsboro.”
A monstrous project two decades in the making is finally under way.
Though groundwork in South Hillsboro began earlier, roughly 100 people — Washington County and city officials and developers — celebrated at the SoHi groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday, Aug. 9.
When the dust settles years from now, more than 20,000 residents will inhabit roughly 8,000 new housing units on 1,400 acres of what will be a new Hillsboro community the size of a small city between Southwest 229th and Southwest 209th avenues, just south of the Tualatin Valley Highway.
“I’ve been driving by this property for 20 years knowing this will be developed,” said Mayor Jerry Willey. “To actually see something come out of the ground over the next year is really spectacular.”
The South Hillsboro project is huge, with several different organizations and agencies joining forces to see it through.
There are the three main developers to start (Pahlisch Homes, Newland Communities and Hagg Lane LLC.), the Oregon Department of Transportation, the Bonneville Power Administration, the Willamette Water Supply Program, Washington County and Union Pacific and Portland & Western railroads — just to name a few.
“This is really a partnership,” said Washington County Commission Chairman Andy Duyck. “South Hillsboro is not a typical community.”
If both the county and city hadn’t come together to plan for its infrastructure needs, Duyck said Tuesday, the project would not have happened.
Proactively addressing the $140 million in traffic improvement needs was key, he said.
Along with the road and power grid infrastructure, the new area will also need water pipes, with one of the main ones being the Willamette Water Supply, a 66-inch pipe extending from Wilsonville to Highway 26, passing right through South Hillsboro.
“It was kind of important we put the pipeline in at the same time we put the road in,” Willey said.
With an estimated completion date of 2026, the first stick of pipe will be laid in September, according to water supply program director David Kraska.
“These projects take a long time to get done,” he said. “Nothing’s easy.”
The Bonneville Power Administration will need $2.7 million to raise low-hanging power lines; the county and city will have to coordinate with both ODOT and the railroad companies to build one rail crossing at Cornelius Pass Road, improve the crossing at 209th Avenue and cul-de-sac the crossing at 229th Avenue; new schools, new parks and 15 miles of new walking and bike trails will also be constructed; and the three main developers will have to coordinate building all the new roads and land plots at the same time.
“Here we are after all these years,” said Hagg Lane owner Joe Hanauer. “It’s exciting.”
Hagg Lane will be the principle developer for the Butternut Creek community, set for land Hanauer has owned for more than 20 years.
“I’ve held this land longer than any other developers … and remained committed to the notion that this complete community could work,” he said. “Once the building season starts in 2017, we can start our improvements.”
Hanauer believes residents will start moving into their new Butternut Creek homes as early as spring 2018.
Newland Communities vice president of operations Jesse Lovrien echoed Hanauer’s estimation that homes in Reed’s Crossing, Newland’s community in South Hillsboro, will also be on the ground in early 2018.
“We spent a lot of time building unity with the other developers,” Lovrien said. “It takes a lot of energy getting coordinated … but we’re going to continue working well together going forward.”
“Developers get accused of creating burdens on a community,” said Dennis Pahlisch, founder and owner of Pahlisch Homes. “But the current taxpayers in Hillsboro are not funding this expansion area. Our staff worked hard to balance all that.”
Also working hard is the Hillsboro School District, which has 90 acres in South Hillsboro reserved for three new elementary schools and one middle school. A new high school could potentially land just to the south of the new development, outside the urban growth boundary, according to Superintendent Mike Scott.
“We’re extremely excited about the opportunities before us,” Scott said, noting an estimated 4,000 new students could enter the school system after the project’s completion. “Don’t be surprised if there’s a bond (for additional funding).”
But that — along with plenty of others regarding police and fire service — will be a future question for Hillsboro residents, who will now watch the city’s southern portion grow before their very eyes over the next several years.
“It’s the result of well more than a decade of collaboration with hard working people,” Willey said. “The demand (for housing) is high and in short supply. This is obviously the place for 20,000 new Hillsboro residents.”