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Development road map pitches revitilization of Railroad Avenue, 'homestay lodging' program

PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - The city of Mount Angel is looking for feedback from residents on an economic development road map to help steer the direction for future development in the short and long term.What direction do Mount Angel residents want to see the city's economic development take?

That's the question City Administrator Kevin Cronin is looking to answer heading into the second half of 2020 after joining City Hall in July.

"There is a dire need to do economic development," Cronin said. "Not because of COVID, but more because there isn't a clear direction on how the community moves forward."

Cronin outlined four key economic points at the city council's Aug. 18 work session and is seeking public feedback to determine if city leaders should pursue an economic development road map posted on the city's website.

The 10-page document, dubbed "Mt. Angel Strong" highlights a quartet of broad short term and long term investments in the community — promoting tourism, increasing access to capital, revitalizing Railroad Avenue and creating long term economic prosperity.

"This is a challenge, so we're trying to broadcast this as much as possible," Cronin said. "There's still time to shape this so it's not something that's set in stone. It's a working document.

"It's a very sort of workable, pliable document to be able to apply to the rapid change of our economic climate. I'm excited by it. It's pretty comprehensive, even though it's a pretty short document."

PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - With few sidewalks, cracked streets and heavy weeds and grasses, Railroad Avenue is a sharp juxtaposition against Mount Angel's more manicured Bavarian-themed downtown located a block to the east.The home of Oregon's premier Oktoberfest celebration that attracts tens of thousands of tourists each year, Cronin pitched the idea of creating a "homestay lodging" program, essentially an opportunity for residents in single family homes to rent out spare rooms to incoming festival-goers.

"You've got a home? You've got extra space? Rent out a room," Cronin suggested. "Legalize that as long as you own and live in the house."

The idea would generate revenue for homeowners, give guests a safe place to stay in a city with relatively few options for lodging and benefit local businesses during peak festival season by keeping tourism dollars in city limits.

The second strategy takes a larger look at broad economic development in the city, seeking connections with local and regional lenders to provide additional capital with which the city can use to promote sustainable growth.

Through grant funding and partnership opportunities, Cronin suggests the city take advantage of Federal Community Development Block Grants for mixed use development, allocate a portion of federal COVID-19 Relief Funds for small business grants and partner with the Oregon Small Business Development Center network and Mount Angel Chamber of Commerce to determine the lending needs of local businesses.

PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - City Administrator Kevin Cronin suggests a two-pronged approach to Railroad Avenue, enforcing city codes to help address existing violations while letting grant funding and city dollars address blight and renovate building facades.Elsewhere, while Mount Angel's downtown corridor and Main Street strip features an inviting Bavarian feel through town, the west side of the city lacks the same curb appeal, creating a juxtaposition between the two sides of town.

Focusing on Railroad Avenue, the most visible street across from downtown, Cronin suggests the city take a multi-faceted approach to revitalizing the area.

"(It's) a pretty blighted area of town," Cronin said.

The approach would be a two-pronged, "carrot and stick" strategy., with support from the Mount Angel Police Department to apply targeted code enforcement, including potential nuisance declaration before city council.

Meanwhile, the city would work with property owners to facilitate exterior renovations and develop a multi-phase plan and funding strategy to redesign the street through various loans, grants, system development charges and more.

The final point of the plan would be to secure grant funding from the Department of Land Conservation and Development fund such projects as buildable lands inventory for residential, commercial and industrial properties and determine the types of businesses residents want to retain, expand and attract.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Residents are invited to view the city's economic development road map on the Mount Angel website, https://www.ci.mt-angel.or.us/."Do a better job of long-term planning … and developing a strategy," Cronin said.

Most importantly, Cronin wants to see feedback from the residential and business community members. He stressed that the economic road map is more an outline of suggestions, and he's eager to hear what direction the people in the community think the city should take.

"It can change due to market changes, council or some of our regional partners," Cronin said.

. Comments and questions can be left on the city's website. The Mount Angel City Council meets the second Monday of each month, and the next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 14 at 7 p.m.


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