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Weigh in on plans for downtown Newberg

Final public workshop approaches, focusing on how to implement specific downtown projects

Whether it’s more public art, fewer lanes on First and Hancock streets, a new hotel across the street from City Hall, or more visible signage indicating nearby landmarks, just about everybody who enters downtown Newberg can think of some change they’d like to see.

There’s one more opportunity to attend a public workshop of the Newberg Downtown Improvement Plan next week, before the project moves into its formal adoption process by city officials.

Tuesday marks the third public workshop of the project, which began last summer. The plan has moved steadily for about a year, moving from broad concepts into specific plans that could be carried out with the right funding.

The draft plan was not available by press time but will be shared at the upcoming workshop.

Feedback from the previous public workshops has been incorporated into the plan as it has developed. Comments received at the upcoming workshop will go into one more revision of the plan before it goes into what consultant Dave Siegel described as a “public hearing draft,” which will be the plan considered by the planning commission in November and City Council in December.

At this stage the project team is focused on the “implementing actions” phase, that is, how do the identified projects of interest come about – and, importantly, who pays for them.

Siegel told the advisory committee in August that there are several possibilities, including applying for grants (a grant was used to pay for the plan development) or through establishing an urban renewal district, an option the city of Dundee has started.

Siegel also broached the idea of a business improvement district or incentives that could be offered to developers who construct certain types of developments: affordable housing or multifamily housing, for instance.

Securing concrete funding sources will come later on, but the plan includes some of those possibilities.

Besides funding options, implementing actions also include the smaller projects that build the downtown area in the meantime, as the larger projects take much longer. The idea of a road diet downtown that would remove a lane each from First and Hancock streets, for example, involves a lot of coordination between agencies and would likely come several years down the line.

“In the meantime, there’s a lot of other things that could get going, like downtown art projects,” City Planner Steve Olson said.

That kind of project doesn’t involve any outside approval, yet still contributes to the downtown environment the plan emphasizes.

The improvement plan has been in the works since the city applied for and was allocated $259,630 through a state grant process. An advisory committee was formed over the summer, consisting of 15 community stakeholders including business leaders, government figures, Oregon Department of Transportation representatives and more.

The upcoming public workshop runs from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Sept. 13 in the Chehalem Cultural Center ballroom. For more information, visit www.downtown-plan.org.