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Business grant to fund streetscape improvements in Main Street district

$20,000 awarded from City's general fund

TIDINGS PHOTOS: VERN UYETAKE - The $20,000 business grant is intended to fund streetscape improvements, particularly on the west end of the Main Street area. The idea is to emulate sidewalks and planters that are already installed along other parts of Willamette Falls Drive. Ongoing efforts to improve West Linn’s Historic Willamette Main Street area along Willamette Falls Drive received another boost recently, as the City announced a $20,000 Business District grant awarded to the Historic Willamette Main Street (HWMS) group.

The grant, awarded for fiscal year 2016 from the City’s General Fund, is intended to support an effort to “increase foot traffic, safety and outdoor seating options in the area.”

According to West Linn Mayor Russ Axelrod, who is an active member of the HWMS group, the funds will be used with a particular focus on the west end of the Main Street area near the shuttered Russ Auto Care property.

“The streetscape looks like crap, really — it’s beat up and old and needing an upgrade,” Axelrod said. “They want improvements all the way from 10th Street on down, but especially the very west end, which doesn’t have anything.”

The “anything” he refers to is streetscape — sidewalks, planters and other decorative items that are seen in other sections of the Main Street area.

“It would be sort of a continuation of that general design, extended further to the west to 15th or 16th Street,” Axelrod said.

The hope is to utilize the grant funding in conjunction with concept planning and work that has already been done as part of West Linn’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).

“The CIP already has identified what to do with Dollar Street and Willamette Falls Drive,” Axelrod said. “Maybe we can couple some of that and leverage the grant money to kind of move it forward.”

Historic Willamette Main Street is the City's only official business district, though Mayor Russ Axelrod hopes to help create more in the future.

In late 2015, the City Council unanimously approved a $40,000 grant to HWMS, the bulk of which was used to hire part-time Main Street Manager Noelle Brooks.

Now, with this $20,000 in hand, HWMS will continue to push for tangible improvements to the streetscapes. Those additions might include new lighting and enhanced seating areas for outdoor dining. “(We’re looking at) better lighting at night, so it’s more inviting,” Axelrod said. “Kind of like how Lake Oswego has done in their business district, and other cities, to make it more inviting at night.”

As for dining options, Axelrod said HWMS will examine how to “improve the outdoor environment to encourage outdoor dining and make it more of an active, dynamic street environment, in keeping with a historic theme.”

Improvement efforts would also cover some safety issues, as parking has proven to be particularly tricky on the west end of the area and some drivers use intended parking areas to cut through traffic. Given that Historic Willamette Main Street is the only official business district in West Linn, the grant allocation decision was rather obvious.

“We’d love to have more than one business district, but we don’t,” Axelrod said. “The goal is to create more.”

In the meantime, HWMS continues to gain momentum behind increased funding and organization.

“They’re getting organized and eager and ready to go,” Axelrod said. “I think in the next few years, we’re going to see a lot of change.”