By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
The City of Keizer will be dusting off some older economic development studies in hope of finding a new vision for the future of the Iris Capital’s business districts.
Keizer was recently awarded a $165,000 Transportation Growth Management Plan grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation to update studies revolving around three business corridors – River Road North, Inland Shores and Cherry Avenue Northeast.
“The grant will pay for consultants, public outreach, analysis and transportation studies,” said Nate Brown, Keizer’s community development director. “We’ll be looking at how we can encourage economic development in all three areas.”
The new studies will fall under the umbrella of the Keizer Revitalization Action Plan.
The last study of River Road North was called the River Road Renaissance (RRR) plan and it was conducted in 2003. Consultants met with city staff and residents to create a more cohesive vision of what River Road might become.
RRR tackled challenges from making River Road more pedestrian friendly to assigning “zones” in which local businesses were supposed to take leadership in revitalizing.
Much of the verve and vigor the plan hoped to ignite fizzled when the economy collapsed in 2008. Then the plan lost a major funding stream when an urban renewal district was sunsetted, but there have been some lasting impacts. Several points of interest were identified and commemorated with plaques and monuments, meandering sidewalks were installed in some sections of River Road and some storefronts were refurbished with the assistance of city-funded grants – Keizer’s Economic Development Committee (KEDC) is currently hoping to reinstitute a comparable grant program. Even the city’s public arts program, which is now handled by its own commission, was an offshoot of the original RRR endeavor.
Other aspects of the plan went unrealized. Some of the most prominent ones include a call for quarterly festivals attracting visitors to River Road; an increase in workforce housing (building vertical) as properties were redeveloped; more pedestrian crossings; and even potentially relocating a civic building, such as the post office or a library, to a more central space on the corridor.
At the time it was adopted by council “none of the actions appeared to be beyond reach,” but a slow economic recovery has vastly changed the landscape. As recently as a few weeks ago, Mayor Cathy Clark presented her vision of a redeveloped River Road that included vertical development with housing on top of retail spaces, but another member of the committee suggested that price tag would be well beyond the city’s means.
The Cherry Avenue plan focused on providing infrastructure for future development and was completed. With grant funding, the city will look at the best options for growth and what obstacles exist for further economic development.
The last time the city detailed a plan for the Inland Shores area was 1991.
The studies funded by the grant will look at ways to develop thriving neighborhoods that meet the forecasted housing needs of the city with an emphasis on convenient transportation.