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Museum moves to Hillsboro center

Rent-free space expected to draw people downtown


Washington County Museum Director Sam Shogren (left) and Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey looked over plans for the museum's new space in the Hillsboro Civic Center last week.
It’s official. The Washington County Museum will make its new home in downtown Hillsboro, loading up 13,000 square feet of space in the city’s Civic Center with artifacts and cultural items.

Museum officials signed a 15-year, rent-free lease with the city of Hillsboro last week. The deal calls for the museum to pay for the remodeling costs.

“The space at our Civic Center gives the museum more visibility and easier access for their visitors while at the same time brings more people to downtown Hillsboro,” said Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey in a statement issued Friday. “Together, we will be growing another great venue for downtown Hillsboro.”

The deal solves a problem for each agency.

The nonprofit museum’s current site, on Portland Community College’s Rock Creek Campus, is far away from other cultural attractions that might spur drop-in visitors to the museum.

The city had a problem, too. The space in the Civic Center was originally built to house the Hillsboro central library, but funding fell through after voters turned down a bond request. The space has been vacant since the Civic Center opened in 2005.

Moving the museum into the Civic Center solves both problems, giving Hillsboro another downtown attraction and giving the museum access to a burgeoning cultural center with built-in foot traffic.

Museum Director Sam Shogren said the museum will likely have to make $500,000 in improvements to the space, which is wired and plumbed, but otherwise mostly a concrete and steel shell.

And the museum isn’t going to abandon the space at Rock Creek, which opened in January 1983.

In 2007, the museum expanded the Rock Creek facility to its current 11,000-square-foot floor plan. Improvements to both facilities could wind up totaling $1 million, Shogren said. Museum supporters are already undertaking a $3.5 million capital campaign aimed at raising the cash.

Once the Hillsboro space is established, Shogren said the Rock Creek facility will be used for important behind-the-scenes and scholarly pursuits. But Hillsboro, with its easy access to MAX light rail and close proximity to dining, will house the museum’s main attractions.

Shogren said the museum plans to extend its hours into the evening to attract people heading to downtown Hillsboro for shopping and dining.

“We want to help draw people into downtown Hillsboro,” Shogren said, “and consolidate the city as an arts and culture destination.”