The parts of the River Road beautification project that have been completed have received good reviews. People comment that Keizer’s main thoroughfare looks great with the meandering sidewalks and new landscaping.
It’s time to finish the project and it’s the city’s responsibility to see it is completed for the sake of the vitality of River Road and overall economic development in Keizer.
River Road Renaissance, as the beautification project is called, has been done in a hopscotch matter—one parcel here, another parcel there. In hindsight the project should have been started at one end or the other of River Road, updating both sides of the street and it moved north or south.
The project has been completed as business and landowners become eligible for Urban Renewal District funds to pay for the redevelopment of parcels of River Road. For too long the city waited for River Road landowners to come to the city seeking approval for a part of the Urban Renewal pot.
What we are left with is an uncompleted renaissance that looks haphazard. The Urban Renewal District and the city had the best of intentions, and still do. But it is time to put money back into the project, get serious about proceeding in an orderly fashion.
It is reported there is about $1 million remaining for the River Road Renaissance project, but there is much more money that was borrowed to build the Civic Center and to purchase land at Keizer Station. The city needs to promise River Road businesses that that money will be replaced and used for its intended purpose.
We can all drive down River Road and point out the sidewalks that desperately need to be redeveloped. It is the owners of those properties who should be approached and offered incentives in the way of low-cost loans from the Urban Renewal District.
Urban Renewal District pays 100 percent of the improvement of public right-of-way sidewalks and its landscaping. Some property owners don’t have the cash on hand to undertake a project that would go along with new sidewalks such as an improved facade or an updated parking lot. That is why offering loans to the owners can jumpstart the renaissance project, especially if it fills in the gaps.
Hopefully Keizer will be the longtime home of two large events—Good Vibrations Motorcycle Rally and the Festival of Lights parade. It’s too late to make all of River Road beautiful by the time those events happen this year. Visitors to these events in future years should be met with a consistent, attractive River Road that people want to visit.
Keizer’s economic development should take place in all parts of the city especially the area that needs it most.