By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Bladine: ‘Right stuff’ needed for downtown work

It was heartening this week to see the level of civic engagement and commitment to the next great phase of McMinnville downtown development.

The Third Street Improvement Project has been launched with a full array of citizen volunteers, city staff, professional consultants and, at long last, an adequate funding strategy. Preliminary development ideas look promising, but details to come will determine the full legacy of this project.

Some simply call it “Streetscape,” but that’s far from a simple concept. Here’s one description of its broad scope, from the University of Delaware Complete Communities Toolbox:

“Streetscape is a term ‘that is used to describe the natural and built fabric of the street, and defined as the design quality of the street and its visual effect.’ The concept recognizes that a street is a public place where people are able to engage in various activities. Streetscapes and their visual experience largely influence public places where people interact, and that ultimately helps define a community’s aesthetic quality, economic activity, health, and sustainability.

“A successful streetscape has multiple aspects. Because all roads have multiple users and serve many functions, each streetscape design must be context-sensitive. Transportation systems must consider the context or physical setting and use design approaches and materials that are consistent with local conditions. A streetscape needs to have boundaries to ensure safe travel for all roadway users. Signs, curbs, fences and landscaping can effectively create an inclusive, yet safe environment that provides a sense of physical comfort for diverse users and activities. The aesthetic appeal elements of beautification initiatives, attractive lighting, street furniture, clean streets, and outdoor dining contribute to a town’s sense of place. Amenities should be designed to get people out of their cars to socialize, interact with their environment, and discover other mobility options.”

Current history of downtown McMinnville streetscape activity dates back to 1968. The ensuing 50-plus years produced the Committee on Redevelopment Phase I, followed by the demise of Phase II. Planning continued with Task Force 2000 in 1996; the Downtown Improvement Plan of 2000; the Downtown Task Force of 2008; and finally, 2013 creation of a downtown Urban Renewal District designed to fund a culmination of decades of plans.

Easily anticipated Urban Renewal funding can finance a major bond project, augmented by available federal funds. What remains is invention of the right stuff for this project of great community significance. No doubt, more about that will appear in this space throughout 2022.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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