Banners, facade improvements create visitor-friendly downtown

By Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer April 21, 2010 02:37 pm

Brian Hanley of Grande Ronde Sign Co. hangs the first of 42 new Main Street program welcome banners on Adams Avenue last Wednesday. BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH/ The Observer
Brian Hanley of Grande Ronde Sign Co. hangs the first of 42 new Main Street program welcome banners on Adams Avenue last Wednesday. BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH/ The Observer
The City of La Grande and the local Oregon Main Street program got their spring spruce-up campaign going downtown last week, hanging welcome banners from poles and looking ahead to more projects.

Last Wednesday, workers from Grande Ronde Sign were out, hanging new welcome banners from the poles along Adams Avenue. It’s the first of several improvements that should be complete by the start of the summer season.

“There’s a big splash of things planned for May,” said La Grande Community and Economic Development Director Charlie Mitchell.

The City of La Grande and the local Oregon Main Street program got their spring spruce-up campaign going downtown last week, hanging welcome banners from poles and looking ahead to more projects.

Last Wednesday, workers from Grande Ronde Sign were out, hanging new welcome banners from the poles along Adams Avenue. It’s the first of several improvements that should be complete by the start of the summer season.

“There’s a big splash of things planned for May,” said La Grande Community and Economic Development Director Charlie Mitchell.

La Grande’s Main Street Program is working hand-in- hand with the city to make downtown a more visitor- friendly place.

The banner project originated with the program’s design committee. It added 42 Main Street program banners to existing ones sponsored by Eastern Oregon University and Grande Ronde Hospital.

“There will be banners on every pole on Adams between Second or Third Street and Island Avenue,” said Mitchell. He said the banners will stay up all summer, then most will be taken down for the winter.

A facade improvement grant program administered by the city is in full swing, with at least some projects complete, and planning or actual work under way on some others.

The grant program earlier helped fund improvements for the Earth ‘N’ Book building 1118 Adams, and replacement of upper story windows at the former Mamacita’s building on Depot Street. Grant funding also helped pay for a new sign at Benchwarmer’s pub on Depot.

At present, local contracting company Dream Builders, owned by J.D. Standley, is at work on the front of Golden Crown restaurant at 1116 Adams Ave.

Mitchell said the Golden Crown project is an extensive one, with the owners picking up the lion’s share of the tab. The grant program chipped in $7,500.

“It’s the most complex of our facade improvement projects so far,” Mitchell said.

A facade improvement grant for awning replacement has been approved for the Melville Building at 1429 Adams Ave. The program may also help John Howard renovate the front of the Phoenix Building at 1201 Adams.

But in the nearer future, look for 35 hanging flower baskets to go up on downtown poles.

The baskets were sponsored by individuals and businesses at $100 apiece. They will be filled with flowers from the La Grande Middle School’s gardening program.

“The baskets will be very noticeable. They’ll add a lot of color,” said Mitchell.

The city’s urban renewal fund is paying for pots and hanging brackets. Volunteers from the Stepping Stone Foundation will be watering the flowers throughout the summer. A truck for carrying and delivering water has been donated by local businessman Mark Goss.

The flower baskets are improvements added to others, notably bike racks installed in front of various businesses last winter and this spring. And soon, some new trash cans may placed along the streets.

Mitchell said the city and Main Street hope to have downtown ship-shape in time for the opening of Farmer’s Market May 22.

Currently, volunteers are being sought for a general downtown clean-up. To sign up, contact Jason McNeil at the city planning department.