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'Olde Towne' signs on Highway 30 to be replaced

St. Helens council renamed downtown area last year

MARK MILLER - Directional signage points motorists traveling westbound on Highway 30 to the 'Olde Towne Cultural District,' just before the highway's intersection with Columbia Boulevard. St. Helens city councilors want to change the reference to conform with the neighborhood's new name: the Riverfront District.The St. Helens City Council agreed Wednesday, March 4, that references to “Olde Towne” on signage posted along Highway 30 should be replaced.

Last fall, the council voted to rename its historic downtown area the “Riverfront District.” The new name, councilors agreed, is more inclusive of brownfield land the city hopes to see redeveloped south of the “Olde Towne” core, as well as complimentary to the existing Houlton District to its west.

When City Recorder Kathy Payne addressed the council Wednesday afternoon about the highway signage, most of the council said it should reflect the new name.

“I think all of those need to come down — anything that says ‘Olde Towne,’” said Randy Peterson, the city’s mayor.

Peterson was joined by City Councilors Susan Conn and Ginny Carlson, although Councilor Keith Locke argued that the signs directing motorists to “Olde Towne” could remain in place for a “transition period,” supplemented by additional signage with the new name.

“The whole idea’s just to get people down here,” Locke said.

Peterson also said the signs should direct people to the Houlton District, which encompasses the commercial uptown area along Columbia Boulevard and St. Helens Street.

Locke suggested the council should look at changing the name of the Houlton District, which dates back to when Houlton was incorporated as a separate city. About a century ago, Houlton was annexed into St. Helens. He argued that keeping the historical name has marked it as “separate” from the rest of St. Helens.

“By naming it a separate name, we’re sort of part of the problem,” he said.

Again, though, the other councilors present disagreed.

“I like the ‘Riverfront’ and ‘Houlton,’” said Carlson. “I think that Houlton a lot of times feels forgotten, because all the attention goes to Olde Towne, and I think that creates divisiveness. So if you’re going to call that ‘Riverfront,’ you need to call that ‘Houlton.’”

After the highway signage question was settled, Peterson directed city staff to look into ways to delineate the two historic neighborhoods.

The City Council agreed last November that DeSpains Hill, just east of Lewis & Clark Elementary School, should be considered the dividing line between the Houlton and Riverfront districts.