Library talk helps kick off public phase of development effort

There’s a groundswell in Cornelius this week and it’s centered on downtown development.

Tuesday and Thursday, five focus groups will tackle the issue. And Friday, Nan Laurence, the senior planner for the city of Eugene will address the topic in her Fourth Friday talk at the Cornelius Public Library.

These three events kick off the city’s public phase of planning for the future of downtown Cornelius.

Right now, according to City Manager Rob Drake, downtown Cornelius is “somewhat frozen in time,” with vacant storefronts, under-used properties and structural deterioration.

Metro, the regional planning agency, is paying for Michele Reeves of Civilis Consultants to conduct this week’s focus groups, which are made up of business owners, property owners and community members. Reeves did similar consulting work for Hillsboro (2011) and Forest Grove (2012) on their downtowns.

Laurence’s library talk, “A City’s Center: Rethinking Downtown,” is not part of Reeves’ focus groups, but she hopes to start a lively discussion and solicit people’s opinions.

“The point of this conversation is not for me to come in as an expert and tell everybody in the city what to do,” Laurence said. “It’s for me to set up an opportunity for residents to talk about what is really important to them in their downtown.”

Laurence will talk for about 20 minutes and then ask for feedback from community members.

“What do they value in their downtown,” she said. “Where do they take guests when they come to visit? Do they take them out of town? What is it about their town that they want to hold onto?”

This week’s efforts by the city and the library are part of a lengthy process to restore downtown Cornelius, Drake said, and follow initial studies funded by a federal grant.

Community involvement is crucial to making downtown Cornelius a place where people want to stop and live instead of speeding through to other destinations, Drake said, referring to the city’s heavy downtown traffic along state Highway 8, “which presents both challenges and opportunities.”

Both city and library officials hope the discussions this week will address the plans for a new library, which could help anchor a resurgence in the downtown area’s vitality. A bond issue to help pay for the project will be on the November ballot.

There will be plenty of opportunity for residents to talk about traffic and the library and more during Laurence’s presentation.

“It’s not just about vacant storefronts,” she said. “It’s about what makes Cornelius special and why they love it and why they stay here.”

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