Urban Renewal Committee Outlines Possible Projects

Hermiston City Planner Clint Spencer shows the proposed boundaries for Hermiston's Urban Renewal District Thursday evening.

As Hermiston looks to revitalize its downtown core for the 21st century, it might find its inspiration in the past – more than 100 years into its past.

Members of the city’s Urban Renewal District Planning Advisory Committee heard Thursday night from Keith May, a key player in Pendleton’s Urban Renewal District.

May, a member of the Pendleton City Council and chairman of the city’s URD, gave some insight Thursday evening into the his city’s efforts to revitalize its downtown area. He suggested Hermiston’s downtown theme could be 1907 – the year Hermiston was incorporated.

May said Hermiston’s downtown area has some historic architecture that could bring in tourists and increase shopping traffic. The problem is that much of the architecture is buried behind mid-century remodeling – or “remuddling,” as May put it.

One of the downtown buildings May described as “historic” is the old city hall at 295 E. Main St., which is now home to the Knot Doctor.

Keith May
“That is a key building and you will find that it is a tourist attraction,” May told the committee.

Following May’s presentation, Hermiston’s committee discussed several possible projects for its Urban Renewal District. The committee pointed out that none of the projects will involve new taxes, but, instead, a shifting of future increases in tax revenue from existing districts into the urban renewal district for the time period that the URD exists.

Possible projects for Hermiston’s URD include a new downtown plaza, estimated to cost approximately $1.3 million. This project would involve purchasing land, improving streets and building fountains and gazebos. Another possible project involves improving and enlarging the parking lot on the north side of Hurlburt, behind Hale’s Restaurant, at an estimated cost of $315,000. The committee also discussed façade improvement grants, downtown signage and decorative street lighting.

Committee member Joe Thompson suggested making use of the old Armand Larive Middle School archway entrance and turning the old Carnegie library building, now home to the Hermiston Building Department, into an arts center.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, the committee elected Wade Smith as committee chair and Debbie Pedro as vice chair. The next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on April 25 during which time the committee will finalize its list of projects.

May said Pendleton’s formation of its URD has proven to increase property values in many cases, as well as cut down on the number of building vacancies within the district. His enthusiasm for downtown revitalization was evident as he encouraged Hermiston to move forward.

“I’m very excited for you guys,” May told the committee.

More information on the Urban Renewal District Planning Advisory Committee and the proposed district boundaries can be found at the city’s website.