If you haven't been to downtown Oregon City in a while, the changes this summer may take you by surprise. While the Arch Bridge is closed through the end of next year, the city is moving on several construction projects.
Expect soon to plug $1 an hour instead of 50 cents into parking meters. For the first time in decades this fall, Main Street will return to two-way traffic, which means new striping and curb cuts. A contractor began removing a traffic island on 6th and Main this week as the first step in the process.
The busy intersection of 10th and Main will close the route up Singer Hill for installation of bike routes along with other amenities. Main will remain open to one lane of daytime traffic at a time starting Aug. 29 until the nine inches of new concrete is dry.
And did you receive a parking permit the last time you were called downtown for jury duty? Don't expect to land free parking again.
'They'll be a lot of small changes that will together have a large impact,' said Downtown Manager Lloyd Purdy. 'I'm impressed that over a very short amount of time that we've had such a positive impact and had such an active and robust range of programs.'
Amid the construction, downtown boosters are coordinating four second-annual events: the Wednesday summer farmers market, the car show, the First City Celebration and First Friday activities.
The city will try to minimize the public's consternation over surprises by posting all four of its Code Enforcement officers downtown during the first couple of weeks that the changes take effect. To anyone attuned to media reports or City Hall, the changes are familiar as part of a public process that has involved dozens of public meetings and City Commission votes since a 20-member downtown stakeholder committee convened in January 2008.
But it's still surprising to many insiders that the changes are happening all at once.
'It's all going to take a little bit of getting used to,' said Nancy Busch, the city's code enforcement manager.
In another attempt at lessening the surprises, the city last month hosted two informational meetings on downtown parking, where Busch distributed a one-page flyer showing the locations for long-term and two-hour parking.
At the second meeting held in his bar, Caufield House owner Ryan Smith urged city officials to provide more information for downtown employees and customers. Smith, who was a member of the parking advisory committee, worried that his employees would seek spaces further afield in the Singer Hill neighborhood to avoid paying for parking.
'I'd hate to tell you to go park in front of people's houses-I really can't do that,' said Oregon City Community Services Director Scott Archer.
Archer noted most courts call jurors to downtown areas and expect them to buy their own parking, bike or use public transportation options. The whole point of the city's plan to increase fees and move permit parking from the downtown core, he said, was to increase the turnover of average customers who spend an average of $25 per visit. Although the removal in angle parking will result in fewer spaces along some blocks, a two-way Main is intended to aid in traffic circulation overall, and former permit areas will make up for the loss in two-hour parking.
The turnover of customers mirrors the business turnover downtown. Since Purdy started working downtown in February 2009, 36 new businesses have moved in, not counting new managers or businesses that have expanded, while 16 business have closed or moved out of downtown.
'Downtowns have a natural evolution, and downtown revitalization programs are supposed act as catalysts for making the evolutionary process go faster,' Purdy said. 'Every business has a life cycle, so business starts and closures are a very natural part of downtown. Downtown performs best when it's getting people to move out of the house and incubating into the marketplace, and they very well may move on.'
A way-finder system installed directly in the new sidewalks will help orient people who are unfamiliar with downtown landmarks like the courthouse.
Public art at the base of Singer Falls is scheduled to be unveiled in celebration of the Oregon City Rotary's 75th anniversary on Saturday, Nov. 5, at 10 a.m. in conjunction with the first winter farmers market. The artist is Lee Kelly, who has wielding works at Clackamas Community College among other public arts pieces scattered across the Pacific Northwest. The Rotary raised a total of $35,000 for the project, with $14,000 from a Metro Enhancement Grant funded by fees collected at the waste transfer station in Oregon City.
The Main Street Oregon City nonprofit is looking for the next opportunities to expand - up, by looking at ways to increase density and fill in vacant lots downtown.