Hermiston wins economic development award for downtown project

Downtown Hermiston Before and After

HERMISTON – The City of Hermiston has been awarded the Urban Renewal Project of the Year for its recruitment and development of the Holiday Inn Express and support of additional downtown business expansion.

The award, announced Oct. 28 by the Oregon Economic Development Association, highlights the first major project undertaken by the Hermiston Urban Renewal Agency (HURA). The 96-room Holiday Inn Express opened in January 2017 and has been a catalyst for downtown development since, helping local businesses open and expand in the immediate area.

The project was spearheaded by a Hotel Task Force, comprised of the HURA, City of Hermiston, and Hermiston School District. The school district had recently upgraded its athletic fields and began attracting more sporting events, including OSAA sanctioned state playoffs and collegiate competitions, which necessitated additional hotel space for traveling players, coaches and fans.

To help launch the effort, a Livable Hermiston community study identified the public’s development priorities, including more restaurants, coffee shops, and downtown event space.

The former Tum-a-Lum Lumber Yard was deemed the best place for a hotel, but needed renovations including a moved sewer main and vacated road. The city invested $80,000 to assist the developer with these projects and HURA awarded $36,000 in façade grants to the developer, which resulted in the private investment of $7 million in the hotel.

In the same time, the HURA created a Festival Street one block from the hotel to host regular events, which was completed in 2018 with about $1.1 million in public investment.

Since the Holiday Inn Express and Festival Street opened, four private businesses have sprung up in the immediate vicinity.

  • Maxwell Event Center. A 100-person venue across the street from the hotel opened in late 2017. Public invested $10,000 in grant funding for parking.
  • Hermiston Brewing Co. Car Side Pickup. Hermiston Brewing Company added a second kitchen space at its Nookie’s Restaurant across the street from the hotel to provide room service to the Holiday Inn Express and cater at the Maxwell Event Center.
  • Maxwell Pavilion. A 5,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor venue opened in early 2019 two blocks from the hotel and hosts the farmer’s market on Thursday afternoons and private events on weekends. Public invested $90,000.
  • Union Club. The 4,000-square-foot coffee shop/bar opened in 2019 in a renovated 113-year-old building adjacent to the Festival Street, where it has hosted several events. Public invested $10,000 in the façade.

The development of the hotel, event venues and coffee shop have transformed downtown Hermiston, turning a vacant lot, railroad right of way and abandoned historic building into aesthetically pleasing, viable businesses. They also closed the gap between east and west Hermiston.

“These projects have changed the face of downtown Hermiston for the better, combining public planning and private investment to create a more attractive and cohesive core,” said Mayor Dave Drotzmann.

The City of Hermiston has also been able to refer events previously held at the Community Center to new private event spaces, shifting its usage to recreational programming.

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