Streetscape plan moves ahead

July 31, 2001 11:00 pm

By Ray Linker

Observer Staff Writer

Its a long-range plan.

Those civil engineers standing in the middle of Adams Avenue in La Grande this week are doing the final engineering for the downtown streetscape project.

The actual construction of the plan developed over the past few years with input from a large committee of citizens, business and property owners depends on when the city gets grant money to do the work.

We got a grant of $50,000 and matched it with $20,000 to complete the final engineering plans, said Community Development Department Director Mike Hyde.

The streetscape project includes measures to make the business district more pedestrian friendly, with wider sidewalks, curb extensions or bubble outs, additional trees and landscaping, benches and outdoor dining spaces. There could be new street lights, informational panels, bike racks and directional signs.

The engineering crew from Ferguson Surveying and Engineering of Mount Vernon will be in La Grande through Thursday, then will work with Sera Architects of Portland to draw up the final construction plans, Hyde said.

Theyll be working with the architects and downtown business interests for the next six months, Hyde said.

Having the final engineering plans finished will put the city in an ideal position to receive grants to do the actual construction, Hyde said.

Previously, we applied for a grant through the states Community Incentive Fund, but we werent ready to proceed with the construction of the project, so we were turned down.

In the next go-round, there will be $20 million in that fund, and we will be in a better position to get a grant to do construction, Hyde said.

Hyde said one thing that was intriguing about the engineering work going on now is the firms use of digital cameras.

They are taking some photos now and later can build into them an idea of what the finished streetscape will look like, he said.

In 1999, a committee of about 30 citizens came up with a preliminary concept for rehabilitation of the downtown area.

One recommendation by the architectural consultants, which they described as the basic intention, is to decrease the speed and dominating presence of automobiles on the main street (Adams Avenue) without decreasing actual auto numbers.

An application to have an area encompassing parts of Adams Avenue, Jefferson Avenue and Washington Avenue between Fourth and Greenwood streets declared a historic district is now before national officials.

The city has tried unsuccessfully to get other grants to provide low-interest loans to property owners for facade renovation and building rehabilitation. The renovations could provide federal and state tax incentives.