INDEPENDENCE -- Mayor John McArdle isn't sure exactly how to describe, in aesthic terms, the street lights in downtown Independence.
"I think the actual style is known as Yucky-Icky."
That will soon change. Thanks to a $45,000 Rural Development grant, the Yucky-Icky street lights will be replaced with Victorian-style posts.
City officials have another $300,000 from the Oregon Downtown Development Association to improve downtown Independence by widening the sidewalks and doing a variety of beautification projects.
The city applied for both grants.
Lynn Schoessler, Rural Development's state director, came through town with one of those oversized checks June 13 to hand to McArdle and City Manager Greg Ellis.
Handing out oversized checks is part of Schoessler's job description. He averages about two every month, he said. He likes the duty.
It takes him on a fascinating tour of Oregon's rural communities. Schoessler said he's particularly impressed with what he saw in downtown Independence.
While downtowns in small communities are traditionally troubled, there isn't one vacant storefront in downtown Independence.
"From my perspective, this is a very progressive city," he said. "Things are happening here."
McArdle definitely agrees. "It's all part of the Independence Renaissance."
Community Development Director Mike Danko said most of the downtown improvements should be completed by September. "We don't want to waste any time," he said.
The new street lights will be about the last touch added.
Danko said widening the sidewalks by 3 feet and lining them with trees and benches will encourage people to walk downtown and enjoy the community.
Street corners will be extended bulbs -- slowing traffic and making it easier for pedestrians to get from one side of the street to the other.
"This is all about making Main Street nicer for pedestrians," Ellis said.