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Downtown plan moves forward via grant

Government — City of Newberg will use money to study district and design improvements

The future of downtown is being considered and planned by the city in partnership with the Oregon Department of Transportation, following approval by the City Council last month to officially begin developing the Newberg Downtown Improvement Plan.

The process began in June 2014 with the decision by councilors to support applying for grant money to fund a plan revitalizing the downtown district in the coming years.

“This was all an outgrowth of the (Newberg-Dundee) bypass, coming and looking at traffic reduction, a lot of truck traffic reduction in the downtown area,” Community Development Director Doug Rux said.

The city was successful in its grant application and was allocated $259,630 to complete the improvement plan. Since being allocated the grant money the city has been working with ODOT and consulting firm Parametrix Inc. to work out the finer details of what exactly the plan will take into account.

“It’s taken a number of months to go through that part of the process and negotiate out the scope of work … making sure that what was going to be analyzed and studied was going to be a true benefit for the city of Newberg,” Rux said.

Now the details have been ironed out, with the plan falling into roughly six phases.

First a project management team will be established, consisting of members from the city, ODOT, the consulting firm and others. An advisory committee is also being established that will meet four times during the course of the project and will provide feedback to the consultant. Names of potential candidates are coming before City Council Aug. 17.

Next interviews will be held with various key stakeholders in the downtown district, which leads the project into its third task of community visioning. Two open houses will be held, the first something of a brainstorming session that will ask for community input and get as many ideas about how to improve the downtown district.

Those ideas will be fine-tuned and narrowed into the drafting stage of the project, when the plan is written and rewritten. A joint work session between the planning commission and city council will be required, which the public can attend.

Part of the project will involve studying parking downtown and conducting an inventory of all the on-street parking spaces in the area, the boundaries of which are River Street on the east, Harrison Street on the west, Sheridan Street to the north and Second Street to the south.

“It’s a relatively large geography, but we don’t know how parking is really being used, how many vacant spaces we have,” Rux said.

The results of that study will be put into a parking management plan that could provide a clearer picture of the parking situation, which could then be used in planning for features such as street seating (which was introduced as a concept to the City Council the same evening).

About $32,000 of the $259,630 grant money will go toward analyzing traffic at certain intersections in the downtown district. While many of the intersections have been included in analyses for the transportation system plan update process, this money will bring in previously unstudied traffic points.

The motion passed unanimously and the project is estimated to begin sometime this month, with a projected timeline of 15 months to finish out in October 2016.

“It’s been a long time evolving and it is part of the basis for what we’re working toward for regenerating our downtown: Revitalization,” Mayor Bob Andrews said.