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Help envision River Road’s future April 26

The Keizer Planning Department is asking everyone with an interest in shaping the future of River Road and Cherry Avenue to turn out for a public meeting and help guide the process Thursday, April 26.

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at the Keizer Civic Center.

“We’re asking the community to come and tell us their vision for River Road and Cherry Avenue. The first part of the meeting will be a presentation, but then we will have dedicated stations where people can go to talk about traffic, safety, aesthetics and the types of development they would like to see,” said Nate Brown, Keizer community development director.

City staff expect to update or replace the existing plans for Keizer’s main commercial areas at the end of the process. Depending on how residents want the areas develop, it might mean substantial changes to how new developments are constructed  – with residences on top of commercial spaces to aesthetic changes like a wider palette of color options or increased attention to landscaping.

Last month, smaller groups of stakeholders – ranging from property owners to business owners to community members – met with consultants from Portland-based OTAK to discuss their hopes and expectations for changes.

Lou West, owner of Keizer Town Square, said improvements have come to River Road in fits and starts, but the free market was key to deciding what happens and when. He also expressed considerable appreciation for the improvements that have already taken place. As little as 30 years ago, River Road was a rural county highway with a hodgepodge of sensory input from unregulated signage to utility wires strung along the roadside.

James Marshall, owner of Delaney Madison Grill, said River Road lacked a cohesive identity – a point that was driven home as he took a newly-hired chef on an underwhelming tour of the city.

“It’s the way it’s been developed and it has taken an austere direction. I want something a little sexier. I think it can have more of a wow factor,” Marshall said.

While admitting there were obstacles to the idea, Marshall said a trolley or streetcar traveling a circuit of River Road North and Cherry Avenue would bring “instant identity” to Keizer’s business corridor.

Opinions generally ran the gamut on most topics of discussion, but most agreed that both Cherry Avenue and River Road lacked natural gathering areas.

In addition to meetings with stakeholders and the public at-large, a group of 10 stakeholders comprise the Community Advisory Committee, which will review the findings and make a recommendation to the Keizer City Council on the path forward.

In addition to changes in development standards, city staff also want to hear ideas for how to fund any improvements and major changes. Keizer’s strapped budget, a recession and other financial hurdles made it difficult to sustain past improvement efforts.