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St. Helens looks to redesign downtown

Corridor master plan discussed at council meeting


by: ANGELO PLANNING GROUP COURTESY MAP - A map prepared by Portland-based urban planning firm Angelo Planning Group outlining the parts of St. Helens to be covered by the corridor master plan.St. Helens streets could get a facelift, as design and planning work for major thoroughfares in the city’s downtown core is set to get underway.

City planner Jacob Graichen, accompanied by urban design and planning consultants from two Portland firms, spoke to the St. Helens City Council at a work session Wednesday, Nov. 6, about the “corridor master plan” project that promises to evaluate and re-envision the streets of downtown St. Helens.

“At this point, there’s not an actual plan, but we’re just gathering feedback to help develop that plan,” Graichen told councilors.

Consultants Matt Hastie of Angelo Planning Group and Tim Strand of GreenWorks said the master plan will focus on three parts of St. Helens: the stretch of Highway 30 between Gable and Pittsburg roads, the Houlton neighborhood along St. Helens Street and Columbia Boulevard, and the upper section of Old Town.

“For this particular project, I think we’ve got a really great opportunity to establish community identity, pedestrian safety and just generally aesthetics of the downtown area,” Strand said.

The consultants said they will look at St. Helens’ street layout and landscaping, although Hastie said such major changes as converting one-way streets to two-way streets or vice versa are likely outside the scope of the project.

Among the changes Hastie said local business- and property-owners suggested at a meeting at the South County Chamber of Commerce office last month are improving pedestrian crossings and inserting more “directional cues” toward Old Town, the site of several county buildings, long-established businesses and St. Helens City Hall, from Highway 30.

For now, the master plan only entails laying out a vision for how a future St. Helens could look, with potential engineering and construction phases beyond the project’s mandate.

City Council President Doug Morten was interested in knowing how the master plan will prepare the city for moving toward implementing any proposed changes to downtown St. Helens.

“Could you project what that might cost the city in terms of construction?” Morten asked. “I guess the simple question is, ‘What’s it going to cost to build it? To make it happen?’ And I think that’s one of the questions that I think we’ll always be faced with as council.”

“We would typically, if we’re giving you even planning-level cost estimates, that’s going to include construction costs, preliminary design and engineering costs, and contingency costs,” Hastie replied, to Morten’s satisfaction. “So you got a full set of costs.”

The project is a joint effort between the city of St. Helens and the Oregon Department of Transportation. City Administrator John Walsh said ODOT is putting up much of the project’s funding.