After about 15 years of envisioning how a mixed residential/retail complex could inject new energy into Hillsboro’s downtown commercial district, the vision is ready to spring to life. Early next year, the $16.5 million 4th Main Project is expected to be completed and open for business.

The 4th Main development, which is located at the corner of Southeast Fourth Avenue and East Main Street, is a four-story building that includes three stories of residential units over one floor of retail.

“We’re 85 percent completed with the construction,” said Jeff Edinger, vice president of Gresham-based Tokola Properties, a company that builds and manages multi-family housing and mixed use developments in Oregon and Washington. “The exterior is basically finished, and we anticipate having substantial completion by February 2014.”

The residential units — 71 in all — will offer a diversified mix of contemporary, energy-efficient dwellings that will even feature a series of “rain gardens” to collect and filter stormwater runoff. The residential portion of the project will include everything from 545-square-foot studio apartments to 1,300-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bath penthouses.

The ground floor commercial space will total nearly 3,900 square feet and house up to six separate businesses.

Mark Clemons, director of Hillsboro’s Economic Development Department, said this type of development is vital for the downtown business district.

“Bringing residents into the commercial district generates activity and provides impetus for more commercial development,” said Clemons. “The 4th Main project is a critical new mixed use development the city has been working on for 15 years. It is a key part of our urban renewal plan, and a big part of urban renewal is having more people living in the commercial district. That also brings new investment on Main Street.”

Groundbreaking for the 4th Main project came in July 2012, but the seeds of the development were planted in 1998. In that year, during preparations for building the Westside MAX light rail infrastructure, the city of Hillsboro and Metro jointly purchased a 48,414 square foot parcel — encompassing about three-quarters of a city block — at Fourth and Main. The former Wells Fargo bank building in the block was included in the deal.

The bank is being remodeled and transformed in to retail space as part of the overall project.

The concept behind the purchase of the property, which cost $650,000, was to hold onto it until it was financially feasible for a developer to make an investment on the parcel.

“The city has always seen that block as a transitional development opportunity site,” Clemons HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: JOHN SCHRAG - Tokola Properties president Dwight Unti (center) and project manager Jeff Edinger (left) showed off the 4th Main building to Hillsboro planning director Colin Cooper late last month. Cooper told the Hillsboro Tribune he was impressed with the quality of the workmanship in the four-story structure.

In 2010, with economic conditions beginning to improve nationwide, the city and Metro requested proposals for the possible redevelopment of the site.

“We were just waiting for the right deal and the right developer to move in that direction,” Clemons said. “When the urban renewal district was established, this was a major project, and the city actively went out to solicit developer interest.”

Clemons said the city’s motivation for obtaining the property was a basic one.

“We want to see a thriving, bustling downtown core,” Clemons said.

“We’re going to see a real significant transition to our downtown, and we are darned excited for that,” said Mayor Jerry Willey. “Our downtown is a key focus area for the city.”

Edinger said he expects residents to start moving in by March.

“We already have 50 people on an ‘interest list,’” said Edinger. “We’re very excited about that.”

However, Edinger pointed out that the type of commercial entities that locate in the building will have a huge impact on the overall project.

“The key is the commercial leasing,” Edinger said. “We need something to activate that space.”

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