More life for La Grande's downtown business district

By Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer November 02, 2011 08:41 pm
With a little prodding from La Grande Main Street, La Grande’s downtown business district continues to show some signs of life.

Up and running in the Liberty Theater building at 1010 Adams Ave. is the Eastern Oregon University Mountaineer Market, a branch operation of the university’s bookstore. It opened Tuesday, following several months of negotiations with Main Street’s Liberty Theater Division.

“They approached us last spring and asked if we were interested,” said EOU bookstore manager Lynn Paulson. “Expense-wise, we had to determine if it was feasible.”

La Grande Main Street, begun in 2008, works to foster growth and development in the city’s downtown district. Its Liberty Theater Division, headed by local attorney Dale Mammen, is the group that recently bought the Liberty Theater building at 1010 Adams Ave., with plans to restore the old show house inside.

As the division continues on a theater restoration fundraising campaign, it has rented retail space on the ground floor to Anthony Corig, owner of Direct Music Source, and now to EOU.

The EOU store, in a remodeled space that once housed a picture-framing shop, will mainly be in the business of selling EOU memorabilia, said Paulson.

“We’re not selling books there. It will be mostly insignia items, clothing, blankets and the like,” she said.

Business hours for the EOU Mountaineer market are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday-Friday.

Despite recessionary times, the downtown district has moved forward in several important ways lately.

The biggest project is construction of the Independent Medical Providers clinic at Fourth Street and Jefferson Avenue. Crews started work on the building late this summer, and the project is expected  to be complete before winter.

Dr. Susan Jensen, Dr. Bryan Conklin and Dr. John Schaefer are partners in the clinic, which is costing an estimated $1.2 million to build. The City of La Grande’s Urban Renewal District is chipping in $75,000 for street improvements in the vicinity.

In addition to Jensen, Conklin and Schaefer, Dr. Ellen Schoenfelder plans to move her practice to the new building. Interpath Laboratory, a regional medical lab testing service, will relocate its La Grande station to the clinic. Interpath currently does business in an office in the Sunset Drive medical complex.

 Other recent developments in the downtown core include the opening of Raul’s Taqueria, a Mexican eatery at Adams Avenue and ELM Street, and  JC Woodworks, a cabinet and furniture shop at 1415 Jefferson Ave.

Also, Al Adelsberger continues work on The Marketplace, a business complex in the New Town Square Building at Fourth Street and Washington Avenue.

Workers are currently remodeling the space on the ground floor between the Sun and Style Salon and Yellow Book. Plans call for a bakery, a coffee shop and juice bar.