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After Seven Years of Service, Hillman City Collaboratory Fights to Survive

by Beverly Aarons


I first discovered Hillman City Collaboratory in 2016 while working with housing activists to save a Central District family from displacement — the collaboratory was a space where we could strategize and discuss. The second time I engaged with the space was when I attended a clothing swap in the main mixing room. High-quality clothes were neatly folded into stacks — anyone could grab some pretty decent threads and it didn’t matter if they had money or something to trade. And then there were the films and the talks and the discussions and the various events — social, political, cultural, artistic, and business-related — that I attended at the collaboratory throughout the years. 

But as I approached the Hillman City Collaboratory headquarters on April 30, I could see, even from across Rainier Avenue, that the social change incubator that once teemed with life was completely deserted. This was the final day of the community hub — they had to vacate the premises. An older man, who looked to be in his 60s, stood about 30 feet from the entrance. He smoked a cigarette and peered down the empty sidewalk. As I tugged on the collaboratory door, the man took a final draw on his cigarette and approached me. I wanted to know more about the closing of the collaboratory, I explained. He nodded in understanding as if he had been expecting me and we went inside. 

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