Jacksonville's ahead of curve on downtown improvements

JACKSONVILLE — The city is considering adoption of a national program designed to revitalize downtown areas, but informal assessments suggest it already has accomplished significant portions of the work involved.

Community members and the program's state coordinator reached that conclusion following an initial presentation on the Main Street Approach given to a capacity crowd in Old City Hall earlier in May.

"To be honest, Jacksonville has already done a lot in terms of building rehabs and signage. (They) do a great job in terms of integrating history," said Sheri Stuart, Oregon Main Street coordinator. "In many ways, they are ahead and it's just a matter of tweaking and enhancing."

City Planning Director Amy Stevenson submitted the request to enter the first phase of the program, Exploring Downtown, and will serve as the local contact. But the city will eventually look to have a group take over the process, she said.

Main Street Approach was developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and has been employed in 2,200 communities nationwide. There is no cost for the program, which is supported by the trust.

Goals of the program include:

  • Developing an organization, to build a framework in which people work together;
  • Promotion, to create excitement;
  • Design, to create an attractive area;
  • Economic restructuring, including business retention and recruitment.

"A lot of things that they are talking about downtown we have already implemented," said Robert Roos of the Magnolia Inn.

But Roos, who attended the meeting, said he also saw exciting parts of the program that would benefit the city.

"It's something you have to buy into," said Gary Collins, a Historical and Architectural Review Commission member who also attend the session. "There are probably some elements of if that we may explore, but in essence we are in pretty good shape."

A business leader echoed other's thoughts.

"It was a very informative meeting that highlights a lot of what we had already done and it gave us some direction of how to move into the future," said Arlis Duncan, president of the Chamber of Commerce. "There are still some resources that the state has that we will be able to tap into with this program."

Coordinated efforts are a focus of the program, said Stuart.

"It's getting everyone on the same page and working towards the same goals and objectives to attract the people and financial resources," said Stuart. "It's really trying to get them to work together and not duplicating ... to make sure it's more cohesive and coordinated overall."

"You have a plan and you do it and there's no guessing," said Councilman Dan Winterburn, who said he supports the program.

Roos said the press of getting ready for the summer season has made it tough to get together with other business owners to discuss the idea. But he thinks the town could benefit from the effort.

Beyond the initial Exploring Downtown stage are the transforming and perfecting downtown levels, for which cities submit competitive applications. Medford is in the transforming level while Klamath Falls and Roseburg are at the perfecting stage. Shady Cove is in the initial level.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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