By editorial board • 

Downtown up for an overhaul demanding careful coordination

Fasten your seatbelts, folks.

Downtown McMinnville seems poised for an explosive expansion over the next few years. Its historic Third Street core remains the point of principal focus, but development appears increasingly destined to spill out onto First, Second and Fourth as well.

What’s more, downtown’s northeasterly extension into the equally historic Granary and Alpine districts seems set for a renaissance of its own. In Alpine’s case, a bond-funded streetscape makeover is, it would appear, triggering exactly what was intended — an infusion of private investment by entrepreneurs hoping to get in on the ground floor of a good opportunity.

In this week’s Viewpoints cover piece, Jeff Knapp of Visit McMinnville celebrates the prospect of McMinnville’s tourist economy reaping the rewards, and virtually every nook and cranny of the community benefiting by extension. 

But magnitude of activity poses challenges putting a premium on careful planning and effective public/private coordination. That’s particularly true with the city poised to undertake a full-scale makeover of McMinnville’s downtown streetscape, with new sidewalks, pavement, trees, bike racks, planters, trash cans, kiosks, benches, fountains, streetlights, signage and parking patterns.

The largest of the private projects in the immediate offing is a four-story, 85-room hotel featuring a bar, restaurant, pool, fitness center and other amenities. It would require demolition of three existing buildings occupying about three-quarters of a block, and excavation below to accommodate an underground parking garage.

If the project goes forward along anything resembling those lines, it will require close attention to detail throughout — and on the part not just of the private developers, but also the city officials charged with implementing the new downtown streetscape plan. Parties to the work owe it to local retailers, residents and tourists to mitigate or minimize disruption any way possible.

During the last two decades of the 20th century, downtown McMinnville was but a battered shell of its current self.

Until the McMenamin brothers restored Hotel Oregon to its past glory in 1999, downtown lacked a major anchor attraction. As a result, it was marked by numerous empty storefronts, which didn’t present a very inviting face to visitors.

It has since come to count more than two-dozen food venues, nearly that many wine venues, an evergrowing complement of brewpubs and taprooms, a dazzling array of innovative specialty shops, and, perhaps most importantly, a burgeoning stock of well-appointed lodging accommodations.

And while Hotel Oregon, Third Street Flats, Douglas on Third and the Tributary demonstrate how inviting authentic historical restoration can be, the Atticus and KAOS projects demonstrate how faithfully it can be replicated in the right hands when restoration just isn’t workable.

While retaining downtown’s historic structures is desirable, retaining downtown’s historic character is essential.

We should never compromise on that. It should be the watchword for both private and public development as McMinnville continues to move up through the ranks as a tourist destination, and reap economic and livability rewards as a result.

Downtown McMinnville has become an unparalleled point of local pride over the course of the last 25 years. Its renown has even grown to the point of reaping regional and national attention. 

Can it soar to yet another level?

We see no reason why not. But it is incumbent on us to do everything humanly possible, on both the public and private fronts, to make sure we continue to get it right going forward.

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