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The city is focusing on extending streets and utilities now, with the long-term goal to beautify the riverfront.

COURTESY PHOTO: CITY OF ST. HELENS  - View of Plymouth Pub where you can see the South First Street and Cowlitz Street intersection. This intersection will be redesigned as part of the Streets and Utilities Extension Project. Almost like a Rubik's cube, the St. Helens waterfront project is made of many elements that must interlock with one another before the city can officially dedicate its revamped riverfront.

It's a step-by-step process, but progress is being made, according to Mouhamad Zaher, St. Helens public works director.

The waterfront redevelopment project includes several smaller projects. Among them:

• A streets and utilities extension to bring usable infrastructure south from Old Town into the new riverfront area.

• The Riverwalk, which will create a walking path with recreational opportunities along the Columbia River itself.

• The Central Waterfront and the Industrial Business Park, longer-range development plans.

St. Helens officials are happy to have completed one piece of the puzzle, which is a complete design for the first phase of the streets and utilities extension project. The idea is, over two years, to construct a South First Street and St. Helens Street intersection, and utilities extension along First and Strand.

"The phase we're working on now is South First Street and Strand, which is a major civil engineering and utilities extension project," Zaher said. "We've completed the 100 percent design for this phase. We recently finished the bid process and awarded the contract to Moore Excavation."

The city will hold a pre-construction conference in the next couple of weeks to finalize the construction schedule for the two-year-long project.

Zaher said construction will begin soon, between November and December of this year.

"We have not finalized the project's schedule," he said. "I will be the project manager, managing this project on the city's behalf, and I will be working with contractors on establishing a schedule, the sequences, the phases of this particular project."

Zaher said with so many events scheduled in the city, the goal is to reduce the impact on businesses and to support the community during construction.

Zaher anticipates holding public meetings with citizens and business owners "so we can establish communication channels to voice and let everybody know where we are and how this will impact them."

St. Helens' goal to guarantee community access and reconnection to the waterfront, Zaher explained.

"It would also help shape our economic future as a community, literally by paving the pathway to a new economic growth and increased reliable infrastructure for current businesses," he said.

Zaher added, "The Riverwalk is also in the last phases of design, so we're hoping that we are able to manage those two projects simultaneously, once construction starts."

Zaher continued, "I would anticipate as of next year, construction will be begin on the Riverwalk, starting with Columbia View Park."

Zaher said the street and utility project has a price tag of approximately $14.6 million dollars, money that comes from a loan and a grant.

Tourists are sure to be buzzing when the riverfront redevelopment is completed.

"This is the most exciting time the city has ever witnessed in recent times," Zaher said. "When this project is complete, it will transform the city of St. Helens and put it on the map as one of the most-loved cities with access to water. This will attract businesses and attract development."

Zaher added, "It will enhance livability and connection to the water."

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