Main Street will never be the same

City Manager Greg Ellis hopes Main Street in Independence will be a nice place to walk this time next year.

INDEPENDENCE -- City Manager Greg Ellis hopes Main Street in Independence will be a nice place to walk this time next year.

The sidewalks will be some 3 feet wider and lined with trees and antique-style street lights. The wider sidewalks will also allow for displays, benches, planters and outdoor dining.

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.

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

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.

All this work will begin in the summer, thanks to a $300,000 grant from the Oregon Downtown Development Association.

The money came as a late Christmas present. Ellis found out the grant had been approved Dec. 28. "We're very excited about what this means for our downtown," he said.

The project will go out for bids in the middle of next month, with work beginning as soon as spring and summer weather permit.

Ellis said city councilors want to get bids as soon as possible. Contractors offer better prices when bidding in the colder months.

"If we wait for summer, books come in and they aren't quite as hungry," he said.

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," said Dian Forster, executive director of the Monmouth-Independence Area Chamber of Commerce.

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

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

They are applying for another $45,000 in grants to pay for the lighting, benches and grates for tree wells, Ellis said.

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

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

Ellis said he's been after the Oregon National Guard to donate labor to excavate for the $63,000 amphitheater.

The $63,000 is coming in part from an $8,000 grant from the Mid-Valley Arts Council and a $35,000 grant from state lottery funds.

The other $20,00 is coming from other grants, Ellis said. City officials are going after the grants with the help of the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments.

The amphitheater will have a raised stage, lights and tiered seating for more than 2,000 people.

The amphitheater will be used for community events and live entertainment.

Riverview Park is already getting new playground equipment, a covered picnic area and pedestrian and bike paths.

All this activity is downright fun, Ellis said.

"It's pretty sweet."

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