Forest Grove eyes 'Festival Street' plan, location
Forest Grove is exploring the creation of a "festival street" that would temporarily close a stretch of 21st Avenue from A Street to College Way, in the interests of hosting events.
City officials say they want to provide more outdoor event space and enhance the "streetscapes" of downtown Forest Grove. But they don't want to permanently close a road to traffic in the area. Festival streets can be closed down for special occasions but would stay open to traffic at typical times.
"The idea is to enhance your streetscape and use your street as a gathering space," Forest Grove community development director Brian Pohl said. "Having said that, it doesn't mean closing down the street in perpetuity, but rather modifying the street to have the opportunity to serve in that capacity."
Pohl said the project is in its infantile stages, but that — at least early on — people they've discussed it with are excited about its prospects.
"We've talked to the Chamber of Commerce about it, and they've been largely supportive," he said. "And we have a business community that's hungry for new ideas, so we're reaching out and beginning to explore the process of our potential options."
As part of that process, the city hired Portland-based consulting firm MIG to develop a concept
The firm will also identify a recommended approach for improving and managing streetscape, including street trees and wayfinding in the downtown, as well as handling the bulk of the outreach responsible for gauging public response — which Pohl said will ultimately dictate what does or doesn't come to fruition.
"The cues we take will be driven by the community and not by any other project," he said.
Festival streets around the country can include interpretive features, children's play structures, extensive planting and tree canopies, shade and/or rain shelters, gateway elements, and social seating. In nearly every case, festival streets have flexibility that allows for an event one day, while reverting to a functioning roadway the next.
Pohl added that despite the potential for either the addition or subtraction of prospective or existing infrastructure on the roadway, it's not city officials' desire to eliminate parking, which is an invaluable asset for local businesses.
"We don't anticipate that happening," he said. "We understand that parking would be a concern, but we don't anticipate nor do we intend to remove parking as part of this project."
Although they're not quite the same as the festival street concept — they don't include any "streetscaping," and they are discrete events, to name a couple of differences — the existing Forest Grove Farmers' Market and even the recently implemented "pedestrian mall" are means of gauging what does and doesn't work in and around the proposed area.
Pohl said city officials have and will continue to seek feedback at such events in an effort measure community interest. For some time now, they have been eyeballing a central event area in town with the ability to host existing events like the Chalk Art Festival and Corn Roast, but also being able to support other events.
"We're kind of reaching out to the community and business community about what they would like to see and what their tolerance would be," Pohl said. "We don't want to shut the street down entirely, but rather to make it more attractive and functional for specific events and times."
And when can Forest Grove residents expect to see a potential festival street?
That's yet to be determined, but Pohl said the proverbial ball is rolling, and he thinks the demand for such a locale is there.
"The desire has been identified for a public plaza downtown, and land isn't cheap," he said. "So what we're doing is trying to figure out where you'd do it, and how you'd do it, based on the wants and needs of the people in this community."
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