May 09, 2001 11:00 pm
FOCUS: Architect Keith Chrisman points out how Elgin's brickwork could be accentuated by restoration. (The Observer/T.L. PETERSEN).
FOCUS: Architect Keith Chrisman points out how Elgin's brickwork could be accentuated by restoration. (The Observer/T.L. PETERSEN).

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

ELGIN To be what it could be, Elgins downtown needs to look ahead, and back, suggested members of a revitalization team from the Oregon Downtown Development Association.

Almost 20 Elgin residents attended a presentation Wednesday with marketing strategists and architects on ideas for revitalizing the downtown business district.

The strategies presented, the team said, would help Elgin live up to its already chosen slogan, Jewel of the Blue Mountains.

The team had spent three days in the community, walking and driving, looking at it at various hours of the day, and interviewing business owners and residents.

The work was underwritten by a grant from the Oregon State Lottery through the Northwest Oregon Alliance Regional Board.

Elgin now has the outlines and the drawing to recreate itself as a tree-lined, pedestrian-friendly small retail hub while accenting its unique historic brick


Mary Bosch of the Oregon Downtown Development Association explained that the communitys goal needed to be to develop a stronger mix of retail that would create a unified shopping district and get more cash registers ringing.

Bosch said shed found that most business customers came from a radius of five to 10 miles of downtown and the median income was $32,311.

Ive seen a lot worse in towns your size, she said, noting that the median age, 37.8, indicated that families were shopping in Elgin and that there were teen-agers to nurture as customers.

Elgins location at the crossroads of Highways 204 and 82 is both a blessing and a problem, the team told Elgin residents.

The truck traffic, they recommended, should be diverted off the core downtown blocks, so it does no more than cross Highway 82. Their recommendation was to create a truck route following Seventh Street.

Landscape architect Richard Zita showed with a pencil sketch how Elgin could work with the Oregon Department of Transportation, which is planning to rebuild Highway 204, to develop tree-lined avenues and bicycle paths through town. Along with some modification to the downtown park, Zita and Bosch suggested that Elgin could create a sense of entries to the community.

This is just a framework for development of a unique place, Zita said.

Architect Keith Chrisman drew attention to details in downtown buildings that could be brought out from cleaning up the old locally manufactured bricks, to restoring the shapes of the original windows in several buildings.

The bricks are just overwhelming in this town, he said, explaining that as he walked the town he was looking for a character, or what Elgin has thats different from anywhere else.

The ideas presented by the downtown team will be available in a booklet in about a month.

Its up to Elgin to decide what to do next. The teams suggestions were to select two improvement projects, celebrate the success when they were done and then plan another project.

Elgin will find itself challenged to think creatively and support its risk-takers, the group was warned, but were here to show you how you can more forward and get plans accomplished, team members said.