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Downtown project focuses on 'big ideas'

City government — Options for future redevelopment shown at open house

The team behind the Newberg Downtown Improvement Plan is moving forward with some concrete ideas of how to shape the city’s downtown district before its estimated completion of the plan by the end of the year.

At an open house last week Dave Siegel, consulting project manager for the downtown plan, gave some background on the project and how it got to where it is today.

The impetus for the revitalization of the downtown corridor, he said, is that the Newberg-Dundee bypass is projected to significantly reduce car and truck traffic downtown when it opens late next year.

“This provides an opportunity to reimagine how downtown could be more successful, easier and safer to get around, more effective and better for business,” Siegel said.

To look at Newberg’s options, the project team looked to other cities that have undergone similar processes with success. Siegel explained that the most successful plans are based on three elements: long-term vision for how downtown should look, function and feel; a set of desired outcomes that can serve as measures of success; and a program of projects and actions to carry out that future vision over time.

Then the group came up with some “big ideas” the city could take on to bring about such changes, and presented those options to the public at the open house.

Options include installing “gateway” features that would highlight entry points into the downtown area; reworking First Street to become more pedestrian friendly, reduce traffic lanes and aim toward vertical development; “reinventing” Hancock Street in a similar manner; focusing on the east end of downtown (the “Gateway District”) to provide more signage indicating all that the downtown area has to offer; redeveloping the west end “Mill District” to complement the area’s industrial history while bringing in a range of new employment opportunities; recreating Second Street as a “mixed use” district offering increased housing and business opportunities; focusing on the civic and cultural corridor that runs from Memorial Park northwest to the Chehalem Cultural Center to allow special festivals in the street and to install public art; creating “catalyst” development that would start a trend of more private investment downtown, such as developing the Butler property at the corner of First and Howard streets; looking at the key north-south connection roads like Main, Blaine, College, Meridian and River streets to maximize walkability and signage (or even a trolley making use of the railroad tracks formerly used to transport material to the paper mill); and finally to dot the downtown district with public art, which “helps create an attachment to one’s community and has been proven to be a highly cost-effective way of helping spur economic revitalization in downtowns nation-wide,” according to project materials.

These measures, the project team contends, can help the city take what it has and make it better.

“Downtowns are special places,” Siegel said. “Downtown reflects local history and local values and is often a source of community pride.”

There will be another meeting of the full advisory committee in the coming months, followed by a joint City Council and planning commission work session.

Two public hearings are then scheduled this fall, with the final plan estimated for completion in November.

To keep updated on the project, visit www.newbergoregon.gov/planning.