Businesses along Willamette Falls Drive in West Linn remain open during streetscape project

PMG FILE PHOTO - Willamette's historic business district is currently undergoing construction, but businesses are still open. As construction crews got down to business tearing up Willamette Falls Drive, business owners from the area congregated to talk about making the best of a challenging construction period.

The Historic Main Street organization hosted the meeting, and in addition to Willamette business owners, invited officials from the City of West Linn, a coordinator from the Oregon Main Street group, and a main street organizer from Tillamook, which recently completed a 3-year makeover of its downtown.

Oregon Main Street Coordinator Sheri Stuart acknowledged that the construction would bring struggles for everyone on the street, but said the hassle would all be worth it in the long run.

Stuart told the business owners that the finished, improved streetscape would attract more people to the area.

Several business owners asked the City what it could do to open up parking in the area. One suggested that construction crews lift some of the parking restrictions over the weekend, when no work is being done. Construction has closed parking on half the street for several blocks.

City Engineer and Public Works Director Lance Calvert said the City was working with nearby property owners like Les Schwab on a deal to use their parking throughout the project.

He also said that Northwest Natural Gas had been working in the area, but should be done shortly, which should free up some space.

Another business owner said they had already had a poor experience with the head of the construction crew, whom she said had shown little courtesy to the businesses in the area.

Calvert said that in the future, it would be best for any Willamette Falls Drive construction concerns to come directly to the City at its new hotline number and the City would talk with its construction management team to make sure the concerns were addressed.

To make the best of the less-than-ideal situation over the coming months, Stuart recommended businesses promote partnerships amongst each other and communicate as much as possible with customers.

She said emails to customers with information about street and parking closures, as well as signs with this information can help limit frustration for everyone.

Sierra Lauder, who helped businesses in Tillamook survive its three-year construction project said it's best for business employees as well as the Main Street group to stay upbeat and take the opportunity to create fun promotional events.

"It's happening," she said at the meeting. "Let's be positive about it."

Lauder said she encouraged businesses to view their boarded up windows, the noisy jack-hammering outside and the concrete sidewalk in front of stores replaced by a wobbly wooden plank with humor.

Lauder also said the Tillamook businesses learned to make good relationships with the construction crews, who turned out to be a reliable customer base for the duration of the project.

She said the Main Street group provided them with creative T-shirts and the businesses started treating them to lemonade on hot days and coffee on cold ones.

Calvert assured everyone that construction work should ease up a bit by the summer, with the whole project completed by the end of the year.

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