By editorial board • 

New Alpine Avenue entails listening to concerned voices

Northeast Alpine Avenue looks lovely these days with its $4 million in improvements, a vision realized by city officials and business leaders seeking to transform Alpine into a pedestrian-friendly “festival street.”

However, dreams occasionally have a nasty way of turning into nightmares. Some neighbors and business owners have expressed concerns, which, among all the well-earned jubilation at a job well done and a project completed, should not be ignored.

Eugene’s now-defunct downtown mall stands as a cautionary tale. Officials in that city thought they were creatively embracing the future when they closed downtown streets to car traffic in 1971 and created a pedestrian-friendly mall.

Within months, downtown Eugene became a notorious hangout for all manner of vagrants, vandals and addicts. By the time the last of the streets was reopened to motor vehicle traffic in 2001, many Eugene residents claimed their downtown sustained more damage from attempts at “revitalization” than it would have from a natural disaster.

Will such a fate befall Northeast Alpine Avenue? There is no cause for alarm. Nonetheless, some residents along the streets have witnessed an increase in transients and teenagers loitering on the street. There are, however, signs of more positive traffic of families walking along the paths and wine tasters enjoying a streetside view. The neighborhood should continue to evolve and attract the anticipated craft merchants and other upscale businesses.

Alpine contains all the elements needed to deliver on its promises, and there is no reason to believe it will fall short. This is truly a time for celebration. Many forces in the community united to make the revitalized street, scheduled to be dedicated today a reality. It is a marvelous accomplishment for McMinnville, and no one should rain on so many people’s parade.

Still, there are a few voices that should not be drowned out in all the toasts and congratulations. They belong to the neighbors concerned about loitering and the existing businesses concerned about traffic, particularly truck traffic, as old and new businesses try to navigate the street to bring in their inventory.

Planners should listen to these voices and take them into account, lest the success of the new street be taken for granted. Northeast Alpine will indeed be a showcase for the community, but only if it receives proper and consistent stewardship.

In the meantime, raise your glasses and reserve your judgment. Don’t react too soon, but neither too lightly, to perceived problems.

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