Unified community will bolster Union's strength's, economic health, report says
The report, written for NEOEDD by Portland-based downtown development specialist Vicki Dugger, says that citizens need to be more united if they are to take advantage of the city’s many strengths.
And since the report appeared last month, people do seem to be working together in fresh and constructive ways, said Lisa Dawson, executive director of NEOEDD.
“In just a couple of months, attitudes seem to have changed dramatically,” Dawson said.
Dawson, whose agency provides technical assistance for communities looking to improve their economies, has been working with Union’s civic and business leaders since last summer.
When she began, she decided a good first step would be to make an assessment. Dugger was brought in.
She and Dawson conducted a site visit and did other research. The result was a 65-page report highlighting both strengths and weaknesses and recommending future actions.
The strengths cited in the report include a user friendly downtown and abundant historic architecture and landmarks, lodging options including the historic Union Hotel and Another Place and Thyme Bed and Breakfast.
The report also cited visitor attractions like Buffalo Peak Golf Course and the Union County Museum, and events like the Eastern Oregon Livestock Show and Fright Night, a Halloween affair that attracted a big crowd last year.
“For a town of its size, Union has many amenities that are enticing to visitors,” the report said.
Dugger and Dawson saw other strengths to build on, including the presence of a strong, vibrant artisan community, “lone eagle’’ entrepreneurs who have set up shop locally, and a few small industries.
On the downside, maintenance has been deferred for several of the buildings in the central business district, and vacant storefronts are apparent. During the on-site visit, some residents raised objections to an older mobile home park that fronts the main street.
The result, according to the report, is a downtown that looks “somewhat worn,” according to Dugger.
“On a few buildings, fresh paint clean windows and more appropriate signage would make a positive difference,” Dugger wrote.
Also on the negative side, many Union residents, shellshocked by years of local political turmoil, are reluctant to join in the effort to improve the community.
Dawson said that attitude was very apparent when she and Dugger made their site visit last November.
“Nearly everybody we talked to wanted to talk about someone else,” she said. “Many people from one group.