The city of La Grande is anxious to move ahead with projects resulting from its Main Street Program. Committees have been at work for several months and various projects are coming to fruition. One such proposal was for new lighting at Max Square, which the city put on hold pending input from other committees that make up the Main Street Project.
The city made a wise decision in putting the light project on hold. More input is needed as to whether that would be the best use of $60,000 in available urban renewal funds at the outset of the project.
The program’s Economic Development Committee, which is headed by an Observer employee, believes funds might be better spent on a demonstration project along Depot or Elm streets, one that would make the properties more attractive to prospective businesses.
The concept has merit. Downtown redevelopment needs to be spread beyond the Fourth and Adams area. Other downtown property owners need to see that the Main Street Program is for all of downtown. Whether the $60,000 that could be spent on new lights at Max Square would make much of a difference in projects elsewhere in the core area is for the city to decide. But putting the decision on hold pending more input seems like a good move.
We can all understand why the city is anxious to show that the Main Street Program is bearing fruit. Over the years there has been a lot of talk about downtown’s needs, but nothing has ever resulted in a cohesive work plan. The Main Street Program should be able to correct that problem. But it’s not intended to be a quick fix. Rather, it’s about coming up with a plan and a long-term strategy.
It’s good to see La Grande’s involvement in the Main Street Program. Charlie Mitchell, the city’s economic and community development director, has done a great job spearheading the program, keeping an eye on the various committees and monitoring their progress. Neither he nor the city should feel under the gun to show quick fixes.
The important thing is making sure the program is done right and that it has the potential to have a sustained and significant impact on the health of downtown.
New lighting at Max Square might be an important part of the mix in the long-term, but it’s possible money could be better spent at the outset of the program.