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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Big H ready for launch

Big H ready for launch

Expect inconveniences when work on streetscape project starts Monday

City of La Grande officials are warning that the Big H streetscape project due to start downtown Monday will cause inconveniences for pedestrians, business owners and motorists.

The project includes a rebuild of sidewalks, alleys and alley approaches on Elm and Depot streets between Washington Avenue and Jefferson Avenue. 

It also takes in the section of Adams Avenue between Elm and Depot, the north side of Washington between Elm and Depot, and the two alleys that run between Elm and Depot on either side of Adams.

Local contractor Mike Becker will start Monday and wrap up work in the early fall. 

At an informational meeting Thursday, La Grande Community and Economic Development Director Charlie Mitchell said people should expect disruptions to downtown’s ebb and flow.

Mitchell said that at times there will be places where the street lights won’t be on. 

Pedestrians will sometimes be walking on gravel pathways rather than concrete, and dusty and noisy conditions will be common. For people driving downtown, only minor interruptions of traffic flow are expected, but parking will be an issue.

“Some parking areas will be closed. There will be some parking challenges for awhile,” Mitchell said during the sparsely-attended meeting at the Eastern Oregon Fire Museum and Learning Center, the project’s headquarters. “There will be disruptions and adverse impacts. As a team we’ll try to mitigate them.” 

Mitchell said the project team will hold meetings every week and by the end of the day on Friday business owners to be impacted the following week will be contacted.

He said that in the first week of the project, workers will be using saws to cut concrete on Depot between Adams and Jefferson, and also will be working along one side of Elm.

Mitchell also said the project will cause inconveniences for vendors delivering products to businesses in the area. He said the business owners will be responsible for alerting delivery drivers about issues.

Becker representative Lavar Bowles also spoke, saying the plan is to remove only 2 feet of concrete from a sidewalk at a time, and that crews will work only one side of a block at a time. Bowles also said that when access to a business is blocked, signs directing people to other entrances will be posted.

Bowles also said that the contractor and City Garbage are currently making arrangements to accommodate garbage pickup in the project. Details on that will be announced later.

He said workers will stick as closely as possible to the schedule, but at times there may be changes.

“The schedule is a living, breathing thing and if there are changes, we’ll be notifying people,” he said.

La Grande Public Works Director Norm Paullus said during the meeting that many alleyway approaches will be rebuilt, as part of a separate project funded by a grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation. At times, alley crossings will be closed off.

The City of La Grande Urban Renewal Agency is funding the Big H project with a $1 million loan from Wedbush Securities, and the grant money from ODOT.

In addition to reconstruction of sidewalks, alleys and alley approaches, the project includes new lighting, planting of additional tress and installation of benches, planters and additional waste cans.

During his project overview, Mitchell said that downtown improvements have been on the city’s radar screen since the Urban Renewal District was formed in 1999.

“Part of the plan calls for streetscape work and amenities for downtown,” he said.

He said the Big H project, conceived by the La Grande Main Street Program’s design committee, is only a start. More streetscape work will be done in the future, as funding comes available.

“We decided we’d start in the middle of downtown and hopefully build out,” Mitchell said. “The end goal is to improve the physical environment, make it more pedestrian friendly so people will want to come and shop.”

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