One of Portland’s most notable transit hubs is getting a big makeover.
The Hollywood Transit Center, located just south of Northeast Halsey Street between NE 41st and 42nd Avenues in Portland’s Hollywood neighborhood, is a major Northeast Portland transportation hub. The transit center serves several of TriMet’s bus and light rail lines, and thanks to the car-free I-84 crossing adjacent to the MAX station, the area also sees quite a bit of bike and pedestrian traffic.
In other words: The transit center is well-used. And with its long-awaited HollywoodHUB project, TriMet wants to give it a major, modern renovation. TriMet leaders say the transit hub represents the future of sustainable development, combining access to transportation and nearby retail with affordable housing.
Though some initial work has already taken place at the transit center, TriMet officially broke ground on the project on October 26, setting the stage for transit access improvements, community space, more retail options, and— most notably— a new housing development containing more than 200 "permanently affordable" units.
Units will be reserved for people who earn 60 percent or less of the area median income (AMI). A third of the units are reserved for residents who earn less than 30 percent of the AMI.
The HollywoodHUB project, set to be complete in 2026, is a collaboration between TriMet, nonprofit affordable housing developer BRIDGE Housing, and resident services provider Hacienda CDC. In total, the development is set to cost $154.5 million, and is partially funded by $31.95 million in bonds from the Portland Housing Bureau and Metro: The largest funding award issued to date for an affordable housing project in Portland.
The project is part of TriMet’s transit-oriented development (TOD) plan: An urban design concept focused on creating mixed-use, walkable communities near public transportation to “facilitate shorter trips, better lifestyles, and a more efficient use of city resources."
TriMet has struggled to regain pre-pandemic ridership numbers, which may be partially attributed to the rise in remote work and public safety concerns. But the development framework suggests more people would use public transportation if it was conveniently located near where they live, work, and play. The success of the ambitious HollywoodHUB project will determine how TriMet moves forward on similar developments across its service area.
The renovation will also be bittersweet, as it will require TriMet to remove the “We Choose Love” mural dedicated to the victims of the 2017 MAX stabbings, in which a white nationalist stabbed three people who stood up to him as he threatened two young women of color on the MAX train near the Hollywood station. Two people died at the station as a result of the attack. However, the agency said the new station will contain elements of the art in its design, creating a permanent memorial.
The new Hollywood Transit Center
TriMet leaders, local political officials, and other community stakeholders spoke at a HollywoodHUB groundbreaking ceremony on October 26, highlighting the project’s potential to reverberate beyond the Hollywood neighborhood.
“This project extends beyond mere transit infrastructure. It encompasses TriMet’s commitment to making our region one of the world’s most inclusive, sustainable and livable places,” TriMet General Manager Sam Desue Jr. said at the October 26 event. “We’re revitalizing this transit center into homes and community space seamlessly linked to TriMet’s bus and MAX service and other shared mobility options.”
Design renderings for the HollywoodHUB project show a courtyard and “paseo” walkway outside the apartment building, which could be activated with more retail spaces in the area. TriMet plans to embed a memorial to the 2017 attack within the space’s design, which “We Choose Love” mural artist Sa’rah Farahat spoke in support of at the October 26 event.
“I’m happy to see the space turned into something new,” Farahat said. “I remain committed to the words that were written, spoken and made into action by citizens of Portland who demand safety and love for all…To you who visited ‘We Choose Love’ as a way to mourn and spread care, may the words sprout like seeds in your heart. Now is your time to bloom.”
The HollywoodHUB apartment complex will be located in what used to be the transit center’s bus station, which has been closed since the end of August in preparation for development. The stops for TriMet bus lines 75 and 77— both north and southbound routes— are now located on NE Halsey St, clearing up about 35,000 square feet of space for new development. TriMet plans to upgrade the bus stops on NE Halsey with weather protection and digital bus trackers.
While there are a few commercial locations already in the immediate vicinity of the Hollywood Transit Center, planners hope the changes will entice more business-owners to set up shop nearby. One space to consider: The now-shuttered Hollywood Target store directly to the west of the transit center. While TriMet doesn’t own that property and can’t build anything on the land, leaders would be happy to see new retail businesses take over the empty lot. It’s unclear whether or when the space will be occupied by a new retail tenant.
Reactions to the plan
Some transit users expressed frustration over how TriMet communicated about the bus stop changes, seemingly leaving riders in the dark about where the new stops are.TriMet has since placed notices alerting riders to the new stop locations. And some transportation advocates were not pleased about the bus stop locations, more generally.
Members of the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) wrote a letter to TriMet in 2021, saying “the removal of buses from the Transit Center will result in a substantial degradation in the experience for transit riders” and make it more dangerous for people rushing to transfer from the MAX to the bus. The BAC has since signed off on TriMet’s plans, after the agency agreed to provide two new crosswalks on NE Halsey at 41st Ave and a new dedicated traffic signal for people biking and walking across Halsey at 42nd.
Other aspects of the project faced pushback in the planning process.
During the planning process for HollywoodHUB, the transit center’s ramp design was a cause of contention among some transportation advocates. The current ramp is condensed to fit into a small space, containing many switchbacks and tight turns. It doesn’t meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, nor is it pleasant to wheel a bicycle down. The new “stramp” (staircase/ramp) won’t contain as many switchbacks, but using it still may not be a seamless experience for people on wheels.
However, people are generally excited about the new transit center and TriMet’s embrace of transit-oriented development. The Hollywood Transit Center was built in 1986 as part of the original 15-mile MAX line between Gresham and downtown Portland. That original MAX line— made possible by the activists who revolted against the Mount Hood Freeway in the 1970s— was transformative, putting Portland on the map for transportation innovation. With the HollywoodHUB project, leaders and advocates hope to welcome a new era for Portland public transportation, housing, and overall livability.
“We believe transit and housing are key elements to maintaining a healthy society,” Metro Councilor Mary Nolan said at the October 26 event. “This project is an example of all of us working together to take care of one another. Providing families with a stable place to live, grow and thrive is essential in building stronger communities.”