Central Point plans $1 million Front Street upgrade

CENTRAL POINT — City officials say a facelift years in the making will transform the city's western entrance with nearly $1 million in funding from a state grant.

The $928,000 from the state's Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee will cover the majority of a $1.1 million upgrade to sidewalks, landscaping and lighting to improve safety and the appearance of the area.

Improvements will be made along Highway 99, or Front Street, between Crater High School and the intersection at Pine Street.

Matt Samitore, the city's interim parks and public works director, said the city could not have otherwise funded the project, which was initiated by residents in a transportation planning process in recent years.

"This is a project that the community wanted and that they helped design, so it's gone from a concept to almost engineering phase," Samitore said.

"We're extremely pleased to be able to do something the community said they wanted us to do."

In all, the state bike and pedestrian committee approved a little more than $5.3 million in funding to various cities and counties.

The committee received 90 applications this year and approved funding for 11, with funds for selected projects available beginning July 1.

Lillie Belle Farms owner Jeff Shepherd, who recently painted his chocolate shop bright purple, said the improvements are overdue for the area that now features several artisan businesses.

He described the city's current western entrance as "kind of funky."

"This is awesome. We get sidewalks and lights and everything," Shepherd said. "Anything to brighten it up and make it safer."

Frances Plowman, Rogue Creamery's marketing director, said he was pleased with the city's effort to draw visitors into the city to help local businesses.

Plowman said the pedestrian and bicyclist improvements will mesh with the philosophy of the creamery, which offers a discount to customers who bike to the business to buy cheese.

Plowman said the work, combined with recent efforts to develop an artisan corridor in the area, will make Front Street "a real gateway."

"We really think the state has seized this opportunity to further enhance the city of Central Point's business district," said Plowman. "We give the city a lot of credit, too, for having the vision to put all this together and to continually apply for these grants.

"Smaller projects like streets and gutters are nice, but they're not as obvious. This is a real home run."

With engineering beginning in July, Samitore said the project would take 18 to 24 months, with completion expected around September 2012.

Samitore said grant funding also was being sought to complete some $1.7 million in work to a second section of Front Street, from Pine Street to the Fire District No. 3 offices.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffyp76@yahoo.com

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