HILLSBORO, Ore. -- Hillsboro is on track to replace Gresham as Oregon's fourth largest city, as it broke ground Tuesday on a historic new housing development.

It's the biggest one in Oregon history, enough for an extra 20,000 people to live. The area is being called South Hillsboro, and it borders Tualatin-Valley Highway, Southwest 209th Avenue and Rosedale Road.

Map of South Hillsboro
Map of South Hillsboro

The old farm land was bought 10 years ago by developers ready for this project but hit a financial stall after recession. Now the 1,400 acres are going to be turned into 8,000 homes. It'll take 20 years to finish, but they'll go neighborhood by neighborhood.

"This is almost unbelievable, it's been so long," said Mayor Jerry Willey.

The reason why? Getting the economy going again to sustain the $450 million investment to build out sewer and water lines, roads and new schools.

"I think, just like the region, Hillsboro has a severe housing shortage so if we want people to live, work and play in the same place, we've got to be able to provide housing to do that," said Willey. "We want to enable people, if they want to ride their bike to Intel, or SolarWorld or Genentech or Nike, they'll be able to do that, so that's going to be the benefit."

Early renderings show the big ideas. A mile-long greenspace of storm ponds, 15 miles of trails, 286 acres of parks, with clusters of housing of all types: duplexes, townhouses, apartments, affordable homes all the way up to million dollar estates. They're hoping for a 2018 Street of Dreams. Some neighborhoods within the project will have a community swimming pool and recreation center.

Map of South Hillsboro
Map of South Hillsboro

"To have an opportunity to develop on this scale, is unprecedented in this market because it's a land-constrained market," said Jesse Lovrien, Vice President of Operations for Newland Communities, the same company that built Vancouver's Fisher's Landing development.

They are building out the streets and infrastructure for home lots that builders will then purchase to build the homes.

Portland is bursting at the seams. But with so much industry in Washington County, instead of those workers driving out to Hillsboro, the development gives them a chance to live there.

"I have really mixed feelings," Deanna Strauss said.

Strauss, along with about 10 others on her street, have sold their properties to these builders for big bucks. Their houses will be torn down to make way for this new South Hillsboro community.

"I think it is sad to see things fill up with homes, but I understand when you bring the Intels and the large corporations, people want to live here and work here and they have to live somewhere and you have to be realistic," Strauss said.

This project will also mean an expansion of transit lines and bike lanes. The first new homes will go up for sale in the Reed's Crossing neighborhood within South Hillsboro in 2018.