Newberg Downtown Coalition releases report detailing citizen requests for transforming downtown

After months of discussions, editing and planning, the Newberg Downtown Coalition has released the Transformation Project report. Formulated from discussions at planning sessions with residents, the report makes recommendations for the future of downtown Newberg.

“We needed to combine (the group’s ideas) into one cogent document. We felt it was important to have those in one voice so it wouldn’t be all chopped up,” said NDC director Mike Ragsdale. “It was quite a project to take the disparate components and make a cogent packet.”

The packet outlines specific recommendations to transform downtown now that the Newberg-Dundee bypass is becoming a reality.

“We really worked hard, very diligently and I think we did a good job of not putting our own thoughts in here,” Ragsdale said. “If Mike was doing it, I might have changed some things, put more emphasis on some things than the group did, but we really stayed true to what the group did. The report is an accurate report of what the citizens came together and wanted to do.”

Desires include more public art, pedestrian friendly streets and way finding, public restrooms, diagonal parking, converting First and Hancock streets to two-ways and potentially closing Howard or School streets to create a public courtyard.

“What the report doesn’t do is come to conclusions on how you do it,” Ragsdale said. “It doesn’t say and ‘in order to fund this we need an urban renewal district,’ or ‘we need a ballot measure to fund this.’”

Although they are recommendations, and a few items can only be handled by the city, Ragsdale said other ideas are already in the works.

“The Downtown Coalition board has already said they want me and them to take the lead on forming a public art board. I’m sure we’ll collaborate with the cultural center and Rob (Dailey) about what we’re going to do with public art,” Ragsdale said. “I think public restrooms can be done by Rotary clubs or service clubs. This report is not a ‘City Council, here it is, we’re turning it over to you do what you will.’ It’s here’s what the committee wants and how can we get as many of these things done as possible. Hopefully the Downtown Coalition, the chamber and others will say let’s collaborate.”

The report is slated for official presentation to the City Council during the July 21 work session, but the council has been involved in forming the report from the beginning.

“The city was a partner in the process, we ran the process but did it in concert with the city council and staff, so I sent it to them as a courtesy to review the product before we released it,” he said. “And they endorsed it.”

Finalizing the report was also a final step for the Transportation and Growth Management grant application.

“The grant request has been put in for $200,000. If the grant is received, a huge amount of the technical work that would be required to determine how to go to two-way streets and diagonal parking would be included in the grant,” Ragsdale said.

But the decision won’t be announced until later in the fall.

“There’s a lot of options for moving forward with things that aren’t bureaucratic,” he said. “So I think what’s going to happen, what my board and I will be working with, is trying to break out the ones that can be done without a lot of red tape, the low hanging fruit if you will, and get some accomplishments and say, ‘That piece of vision is done, that piece of vision is done,’ because the more increments you do the more momentum you have.”

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