DALLAS — One of Dallas Downtown Association’s goals is to make Dallas a bike-friendly town. It just received a big boost in the form of a $200,000 grant from the Oregon Main Street Revitalization Program.
The grant will help pay for preservation, seismic upgrades and remodeling to transform the upper floors of the Latitude One and Dallas Yoga & Balance Studio buildings in downtown Dallas into a bike hostel.
“It was very competitive, and we were funded to the fullest level, so we won the full $200,000 for the seismic retrofit and the modernization of the 904 Main St. building, which a lot of people know as Latitude One, and the yoga studio (115 SE Court St.),” said Gabriel Leon, the DDA manager. “The purpose of the Main Street Revitalization grant is to provide a spark for a lot of these rural main streets to become modernized economically that can support tourism and other economic development.”
The grant will cover about half the cost of converting the vacant space into a bike hostel that will have 30 to 40 beds and a few private rooms, Leon said.
He said once completed, the hostel will attract bicycle tourists to Dallas at the rate of 11,000 bed rentals per year. Those guests are likely to spend time and money in Dallas.
“Because of those 11,000 bed stays, the way we calculated it was, if each person spent about $35 to $40 on food and retail goods, which is a really low number, that would generate about $250,000 new investments in tourism dollars in our downtown, so that’s a really big deal,” Leon said. “Particularly for our restaurants and retail, that will be a big boost.”
The Oregon Heritage division of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department awarded 30 grants worth $5.2 million to Oregon Main Street Network organizations across the state for building projects that encourage economic revitalization, according to a OPRD press release.
The grant application received support from the Itemizer-Observer, the city of Dallas, local bicyclists, the Willamette Valley Visitors Association, and the Salem Area Trail Alliance, along with other bicycle coalitions in the area.
“The city of Dallas has considerable potential to be a magnet for bicycle-based tourism, with excellent nearby opportunities for both mountain biking and road cycling and cycle touring,” wrote Salem Area Trails Alliance President Beth Dayton in a letter of support for the project. “The hostel project would close a significant gap in tourism infrastructure by providing up to 30 beds at an affordable price in a very attractive sociable setting.”
Mark Thackray, the vice president of Mid-Valley Bicycle Club, said Dallas is near a coast-to-coast bicycle trail called the Adventure Cycling TransAmerica Route.
“The official route goes through Corvallis, up Highway 99W, very close to Dallas, Oregon,” he wrote in a letter of support. “In many towns along the route, one finds bicycle hostels and accommodations. They are enjoyed by bicycle tourists, who then spend additional dollars in the community during their stay.”
Marshall Guthrie, of Monmouth, who uses his bike as his primary form of transportation, said the project isn’t just about tourism, but supporting cycling as a viable option for commuting.
“Creating a culture of support for cycling means that all residents, especially low-income residents, can more easily and inexpensively get to work and businesses,” Guthrie wrote in his letter in favor of the project. “A bike-friendly community encourages more people to enjoy parks and public spaces, and improves their personal health as they do. Cycling leaves a community more vibrant, healthier, and better off.”
Leon said there’s still some work to do on financing before the project can start, but with the Main Street grant in hand, the renovation will move forward. He said the DDA and building owner Marlene Cox will apply for a National Trust for Historic Preservation Grant.
“That’s hyper-competitive. Last year, there were seven projects chosen and about 1,000 applied,” he said. “There are very, very narrow chances we are going to get it. We have a couple other smaller grants that we’ve been thinking of, and we are in line for about $20,000 of in-kind donations.”
Leon said he’s supportive of cycling as a form of transportation and historic preservation, so to be part of the team that wrote the grant is thrilling.
“I definitely was jumping up and down about it,” he said. “This was what we needed, so we’ll go forward with the project regardless.”
He said Dallas lacks amenities that cater to bicyclists, and he hopes that is project will begin to change that.
“I feel like this will kind of push Dallas in that direction of being more welcoming to bicyclists,” he said. “We are working on a lot of other projects that are adjacent to it, and I think it will be good for Dallas, both for downtown and the rest of the city’s development.”
With the seismic upgrade and work on electrical and plumbing, he said the grant will help preserve one of the features that makes downtown Dallas unique.
“I think everyone really appreciates the building. It’s kind of unique in that it’s a beautiful Victorian building. It’s on the courthouse square,” Leon said. “There’s not another one like it in Dallas.”