Urban Renewal funds projects

July 22, 2013 10:02 am

It was May 2012 when the idea first came to Matt Scarfo.

The Benchwarmers Pub & Grill owner is known for his annual graduation parties, but they are always subject to Mother Nature.

“We’ve always had problems with weather,” Scarfo said.

He considered renting tents and buying tents — neither of which seemed worth it.

“Why don’t I just permanently cover the thing?” Scarfo recalled asking himself.

Now he will get that chance.

The Urban Renewal Agency funded 10 projects last week. Scarfo’s project is just one of them, but he’s hoping to host events that will liven up the area year round in his new covered area.

“It has to be a parking lot Monday through Friday, but weekends are open,” Scarfo said. “If I can get it done by homecoming, that’d be awesome.”

Rod iron fencing and brick matching surrounding buildings will enclose the lot at the corner of Depot Street and Jefferson Avenue, making it an ideal location for downtown events despite the weather.

“I’m actually kind of nervous, too,” Scarfo said. He isn’t sure what kind of reaction or interest he may get. “I may have to hire an event planner, I don’t know.”

During the agency’s discussions of the funding, councilors were drawn to several large projects that will change the face of several areas of La Grande. Scarfo’s was one that the agency opted to increase funding for.

Another one is the Les Schwab parking area near 20th Street. Agency members acknowledged last week that upgrades to the tire center along with the upcoming 20th Street work will be beneficial for that area of town.

“There’s one word in support of this one: blight,” Agency Member Gary
Lillard said. 

Agency members increased funding for Les Schwab from $19,500 recommended by the Urban Renewal Advisory Commission to $30,000. The tire center had requested $40,000.

And the Phoenix Building, owned by John Howard, will be getting a facelift, too.

Urban Renewal funding will allow Howard to remove the tin currently wrapped around the building and restore much of the facade to imitate its original artistry.

“I’m really excited about getting the new facade,” Howard said. “It really just helps the look for downtown.”

The Phoenix Building will also be gaining a 6-foot clock that will face the Adams Avenue-Depot Street intersection and a flagpole on the roof.

“I’m really trying to make it a landmark,” Howard said. “It’s going to grab everyone’s attention.”

Howard hopes to have the project completed by June 2014.

Agency members seemed excited about these and the other projects they funded.

“If these projects are completed and we go around and take a look at those, I don’t see how anybody can say that that’s not a benefit to the community,” Lillard said at last week’s meeting.

The most expensive project on the list — at $75,000 — is to aid in the construction of a new dental office. Blue Mountain Barbers will receive some money for renovations, and the Maridell Center will get some for HVAC upgrades. Newly opened Tropical Swirlz is also receiving some funding.

Contact Kelly Ducote at 541-786-4230 or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Follow Kelly on Twitter @lgoDucote.