[quote style=”2″]Project Funding Will Not Require New Taxes[/quote]
After some give and take and back and forth, along with a little budget tweaking, Hermiston’s Urban Renewal District Planning Advisory Committee finalized its list of projects for the district Thursday evening.
The list has a total cost of $2.5 million and includes 11 projects. The centerpiece of the committee’s project list is $900,000 allocated for a Festival Street that includes a downtown plaza with gazeboes, fountains and street improvements.
The list also sets aside $500,000 for façade improvement grants, $200,000 for jump-start loans, $200,000 for street lighting and $387,000 for parking improvements in the downtown area.
Other projects and costs include:
• Plaza Programming: $200,000
• Signage: $83,000
• Gateway arches: $60,000
• Pathways: $10,000
• Landscape beautification: $10,000
• ultural attractions: $50,000
The list will be presented to the public in the coming weeks, after which the committee will tweak the list based on public comments before handing it over to consultants who will put together a finished plan. The Hermiston City Council will then act on the plan in August.
“The main thing we’re trying to do is be pedestrian-friendly and bring in people to the downtown area and I think we’re off to a good start,” said committee member Bob Mullay.
Funding for the projects will not come from new taxes. Instead, future increases in tax revenue from existing taxing districts will be shifted over to the urban renewal district for the time in which the district exists.
The committee is leaving the specific details of the projects for down the road and is leaving open the possibility of enhancing them if more revenue becomes available.
“Don’t take anything off the table,” cautioned committee member Joe Thompson. “Think big.”
One “think big” project suggested by Thompson is to move the Hermiston Building Department out of the Carnegie Building, turn it into a museum/art center and develop what used to be the former Armand Larive Middle School playground area into an amphitheater.
“That’s the best historical building we have and we’re using it to store blueprints,” Thompson said. “That’s not right. Use the backside of Armand and do Saturday Farmer’s Markets and Saturday evening concerts,” he added. “That’s a beautiful natural amphitheater the way it slopes.”
Thompson also got an enthusiastic response from his fellow committee members when he suggested re-locating the railroad displays at Hodge Park along the railroad right-of-way along Highway 395 from the Safety Center and continue them north along the district boundaries. He suggested creating green spaces between the displays with a walkway along the route.
“You could get so many tourists with that,” said Hermiston City Planner Clint Spencer.
Visit the city of Hermiston’s website for more information on the Urban Renewal District Planning Advisory Committee. The urban renewal district’s feasibility study also includes background information as well as the district’s boundaries.