SPOKANE, Wash. — Remnants of Hillyard's past days of prosperity are everywhere.
The rusty tracks and old box cars lead to the town's beginnings. Hillyard emerged in 1892 as a railroad town, according to Spokane Historical website.
Workers spent their days repairing and building trains for the Great Northern Railroad.
As more people moved into the area, Hillyard was eventually annexed into Spokane in 1924.
Paul Hamilton is a third-generation Hillyard resident. He remembers when hundreds of people were living and working in Hillyard.
“We were a middle-class neighborhood with a great income," Hamilton said.
Hamilton and his family witnessed the prosperity of the times as well as what followed after the railroad industry rolled out of town.
“When the railroad withdrew and Kaiser shut down we went through some very dark days,” Hamilton said.
In the darkness came poverty and crime. Schools struggled, buildings were abandoned and businesses closed.
The once bustling neighborhood found itself trying to stave off a bad reputation. But there is light at the end of this tunnel.
Hamilton said in the late 1990’s efforts began to try to revitalize Hillyard. Over the course of the years, residents formed community groups, the city made infrastructure improvements, people opened up businesses and the schools improved.
In 2017, Rogers High School graduation rate was 82 percent, an achievement many did not think would happen. Rogers was even featured in the New York Times.
In recent years, investors have seen Hillyard’s potential. One of them is Dwayne Alexander. Alexander owns a few different properties in Hillyard, including the former Masonic Temple at Diamond and Market Streets.
Two years ago, he bought the temple and has breathed new life into the historic building. Alexander and his business partners turned it into an entertainment center called the Roxie. It is named after Alexander’s mother Roxie, who still lives in Asotin.
The Roxie hosts musical performances, caters events and has a 21-and-over arcade. It has areas that can be rented for weddings, parties, and meetings. The Roxie also has a party bus.
Alexander said he believes the public perception of Hillyard is changing. And he wanted to contribute to the revival of the area.
"The next 10, 15 years there is going to be a big change and Hillyard will become more of a destination,” Alexander said.
Spokane Broker Ron McIntire said in the last few years property values in Hillyard have gone up 23 percent. The average home prices are in the $120,000 range. This could be a sign the area is gaining more interest. McIntire said many homes in Hillyard look to be affordable starter homes for many people.
And you cannot discuss the future of the area without the North-South Freeway. Business owners and residents alike believe once complete it will draw more people Hillyard.
Construction on the North-South corridor is set to ramp up this summer. Work is currently underway on two freeway bridges being built over Freya. Those bridges will eventually connect the existing freeway to the Hillyard industrial area.
For now, people who have invested time, energy and money into moving Hillyard forward will continue and there is no sign of it slowing down.
"We have been able to rebuild our neighborhood,” Hamilton said.