Public, officials discuss Main St.

By Kelly Ducote / The Observer August 14, 2013 10:14 am

 Parking, branding high points of Main Street meeting 

“Angled parking!” Business owners and citizens signed a makeshift petition for angled parking on Adams Avenue during a public meeting about the future of La Grande Main Street Tuesday night.

In an effort to discuss what’s next for the downtown development group, a nearly full room of people gathered at Mt. Emily Ale House to talk about what they like and dislike about the current program, and offer ideas to make it better.

Many business owners and citizens said parking is a major issue that has gone unaddressed by the city for decades.

“We are somewhat selfish in this town. If you can’t park within a block you don’t go,” said Steve Joseph, a local attorney.

“Paint is the solution,” another meeting attendee said. Others applauded Jarred Cole, who offered to draft an angled parking plan for the city. 

The other big item coming out of the meeting was that La Grande should create a brand in order to market itself.

Jerry Grant, owner of the ale house, said he thinks one of the main functions of Main Street is to help the city “create an identity.” He suggested it could be to draw more brewpubs or to focus on the many recreational opportunities in the area.

Another attendee suggested utilizing the Grande Tour scenic byway for marketing.

“What about bikes and brews?” asked Eric Lawrence.

A billboard or some signage on Interstate 84 would also be good, many attendees said.

The group also agreed that roundtable-style meetings would be helpful. To start, they plan to meet once every two months, with the next meeting to be held Oct. 15 at 6 p.m. at Mt. Emily Ale House.

Other suggestions from the public included more emphasis on the arts. Sharon Porter, owner of the Blue Turtle Gallery, said an “elevated” event would be more helpful for galleries. She also said they are trying to develop Art Walk and would like to see it moved to Friday night to give it a more “date night” type feel.

John Lackey, along with some others, emphasized the importance of buying local, and a couple college students suggested trying to utilize Eastern Oregon University students.

While the meeting stayed mostly positive, there was some criticism of Main Street.

Ernie Dunajski, who owns Jefferson Street Depot, said he feels largely ignored on Jefferson Street and that the name “Main Street” is misleading.

“I don’t know how you can help me,” he said.

Grant also said that many business owners have felt disenfranchised in the past by Main Street, but, he said, Tuesday’s meeting was a positive way to move forward.

John Howard, Main Street president, said toward the end of the two-hour meeting that support among local businesses has waned. The Chamber of Commerce no longer holds business after hours and ribbon cutting support is lacking, he said.

“We’ve got to get back to supporting one another,” he said.

With that, the group decided to discuss a brand for La Grande and Halloween at the Oct. 15 meeting.

Alana Garner, the coordinator for Main Street for the past two years, will be leaving La Grande this week but said she was encouraged by the turnout and discussion at the meeting.

“I’m hopeful and excited to check back in,” she said.

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.