Street of dreams

Independence celebrates end of Main project

INDEPENDENCE -- The Independence Renaissance is proceeding apace, said Mayor John McArdle.

McArdle is one the who coined the phrase "Independence Renaissance" to describe all the improvements being made in the community.

Downtown sidewalks just got widened and vintage-style streetlamps are going in as part of a $300,000 downtown improvement project.

Trees will be planted along the street by the middle of next month, McArdle said.

A ribbon cutting is scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 17, on new playground equipment at Riverview Park. More than 100 children are supposed to attend along with state and local dignitaries.

Downtown streets are a particular point of pride, McArdle said.

"Our downtown is absolutely wonderful. I'm so proud. This project shows what can happen when the business community, local citziens and city government work together."

Main Street was piles of dirt right up until the Hop and Heritage Festival Sept. 29.

Almost miraculously, in the span of 48 hours, the streets were paved and the project started resembling completion.

"We have a wonderful contractor who is clean, polite and works hard," McArdle said. "They do a good job."

Workers widened the streets by some 3 feet. The wider sidewalks will also allow for displays, benches, planters and outdoor dining, City Manager Greg Ellis said.

Street corners will be extended bulbs -- slowing traffic and making it easier for pedestrians to get one from one side of the street to the other, he said.

"This is all about making Main Street nicer for pedestrians."

And perhaps, in the process, nicer for antique stores, restaurants and other downtown merchants.

The corner sidewalk bulbs have not proven universally popular in other cities like Dallas, Ellis said. "These are going to be different," he said.

They are designed slightly different so as to accommodate pedestrians without irritating drivers.

The project was funded, in part, by a $300,000 grant from the Oregon Downtown Development Association.

Community Development Director Mike Danko deserves a lot of credit for going after the grant, Ellis said.

"Downtown Independence is starting to be a happening place," Ellis said.

In all, five blocks of Main Street -- from Riverview Park to Monmouth Street -- were renovated with the Oregon Community Development Block Grant.

City officials also spent about $400,000 for underground water, sewer, storm drain pipes and street pavement.

Eventually, city officials want to extend the old-fashioned theme from Main Street up Monmouth Street to Independence City Hall and the site for the new library.

Another project is an amphitheater to replace the aging ball field at Riverview Park.

All this activity is downright fun, Ellis said.

"It's pretty sweet."


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