MONMOUTH — Business and residential development has continued in Monmouth, while some recreational activities have adapted to restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the pandemic.
“The biggest commercial development activity continues to be on the S-Curves at Ash Creek Station,” said Community Development Director Suzanne Dufner. “After much anticipation, we celebrated Roth’s and Tractor Supply Company’s grand openings early this summer.”
Work has started on the Papa Murphy’s that will be at that location and building and planning was granted for a new Starbucks.
“We also saw the exciting completion of a new mixed-use building in our downtown at the old Nelson’s Gas Station,” Dufner said. “The development includes two new commercial office spaces and two upper floor apartment units. We’re also looking forward to the opening of Dry Town Tap Station and a new food cart pod with outdoor seating this fall.”
Another mixed-use building is in the works for downtown — Monmouth Commons, where Neighborhood Market is located.
“Construction on the new four-story building is scheduled to begin this fall and when completed it will include three commercial tenant spaces and 27 apartment units,” Dufner said. “It will be our tallest building downtown and provide much needed commercial and residential units to add to the vitality of our downtown area.”
Two new residential subdivisions are currently under construction: Hoffman Meadows, 67-lot subdivision near Ash Creek Elementary School and Phase 8 of Edwards Addition, a 22-lot subdivision.
Projects that were underway in March, when state-wide restrictions were put in place, continued without major delays, Dufner said.
Projects in earlier stages of development did experience some delays.
The skate park, a collaborative effort between Monmouth, Independence and a skate park committee, is still in the works.
“Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of new progress to share on the skatepark,” Dufner said. “Meetings with the volunteer committee have been on hold during COVID, although there are efforts to get the group back together virtually to pick up where we left off. Right now, it is definitely a challenging time to fundraise for a park project.”
There is money in this year’s city budget to complete a more detailed design for the park, and they received a donation from Cascade Steel for the rebar.
“We’re also exploring the use of alternate funding sources such as urban renewal to contribute to the project,” Dufner said.
Some activities, such as library programs, that people usually enjoy during summer months have adapted.
“Our Library staff has done a phenomenal job finding new, creative ways to provide a variety of fun community programs during COVID times,” Dufner said. “From the storybook walk in Madrona Park, to the seed-lending library by mail, kids craft kits, online story time, personalized reading lists, curbside pick-up services, and reinventing the summer reading program, I just can’t say enough about the cool things they are doing and I encourage everyone to check out their Facebook page for more info about upcoming programs.”
Monmouth’s fall and winter events will have some changes.
“While it’s hard to make long term plans for community festivals and activities with how quickly things change, I think we will continue to look for ways to collaborate and partner with the Monmouth Business Association, the Chamber of Commerce and the Independence Downtown Association,” Dufner said. “The downtown trick-or-treat event that usually draws large crowds of kids and families is going to look different. There’s been discussion about doing a drive-thru or trunk-or-treat event instead to maintain physical distance.”
It’s still unknown if many of the traditional Christmas events will be canceled, but Main Street Park will be lit.
“I’m excited to report that we will still have a lovely holiday light display in Main Street Park for the Making Spirits Bright event,” Dufner said. “We have a number of new light displays donated by various community organizations such as the Monmouth Parks and Recreation Board, to reveal this year.”
Dufner said if anyone — business or individual — would like to sponsor a light display, contact the city.
Navigating the challenges of the pandemic has been a learning experience.
“COVID has brought quite a few changes to my daily job duties that I never would have guessed I would be working on,” Dufner said. “I’m not sure I even knew what the acronym PPE stood for before this. Luckily, I like to learn new things and I really enjoy helping people, which all of these new job duties involve. I’m also fortunate to be surrounded by a great team of talented city staff and local partners that help leverage all of our time and energy.”
Dufner said while these new programs and efforts are still in their early stages, the Polk County Business Recovery Team has been one of the most successful.
The team was created “to rapidly share information about resources as they become available and look for ways we can partner with our neighboring communities of Independence and Dallas.”
“The city of Monmouth received a lot of positive feedback on our PPE distribution program that’s free to businesses and available at the Monmouth-Independence Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Business Oregon grant and loan program.”
Through that loan program, six small businesses have received funding.
“We also instituted a new sidewalk permit that’s free of charge, and allows restaurants to set up tables outside their business to expand their seating capacity,” Dufner said. “It’s great to see a lot of businesses taking advantage of that opportunity and people enjoying the extra picnic tables placed in Main Street Park.”
Still new business support programs are in the works, Dufner said.
“We’re working on a couple of new business support programs for this fall, including a new grant program to help businesses that have suffered and continue to suffer the greatest economic losses from COVID restrictions, as well as a partnership with Indy Commons to provide one-on-one technical assistance to local businesses,” Dufner said.