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Rogue River seeks money to spruce up city

ROGUE RIVER — City officials hope their request for $300,000 in federal grant money will bring them the funds they need to spruce up a four-block area of the downtown business core with new sidewalks, street lights and trees.

The downtown revitalization project covers sections of Oak, Pine, Depot, Gardiner, Broadway and East and West Main streets, said City Administrator Mark Reagles.

Also known as "Tree City," the city of Rogue River is eligible for its share of the $14 million 2009 Community Development Block Grant funding because the town is designated a "low- to moderate-income community," said Reagles.

Being designated as financially strapped is a double-edged sword. No city wants to be considered economically challenged.

"But as long as we're eligible (for these types of grants), we're going to take advantage and do what we can for our businesses and give them an opportunity to make a go of it," he said.

Improving sidewalks, curbs and gutters and adding more crosswalks, landscaping and lighting will create a more safe and visually inviting, walkable downtown core for visitors and locals to enjoy, City Planner Laurel Prairie-Kuntz said. It may also make the area more commercially viable, she said.

Rod Logue, a Realtor for Bradley Realty at the corner of East Main and Broadway streets, noted there is considerable car traffic on the downtown streets. But not very much foot traffic.

"It seems like businesses are struggling and leaving," said Logue. "I don't know if the city is very supportive of businesses. I don't know that they aren't. I just don't know."

The city is aware there are currently at least four or five empty storefronts on Depot and Main streets, Reagles said.

"People are having a hard time," Reagles said. "Whatever we can do to help stem the tide, make the city a little cuter, a nicer place to walk around and shop."

Wimer resident Ellen Campbell is a member of the City Council's citizen advisory committee, chamber of commerce, and co-marshal of this Saturday's Rooster Crow Parade. Campbell moved her framing business out of the city at the end of last month. After 10 years leasing space at a business court on Pine Street, Campbell said she and her husband, Ralph Campbell, struggled with the decision to move back to their original location in Wimer. But a slumping economy, combined with the stresses of a daily commute between both locations, ultimately pushed them to give up the Rogue River lease, she said.

"We have been working out of a split facility," said Campbell. "All the framing orders were taken in town. All the frames were built at the home workshop."

In 2003, the Oregon Downtown Development Association created a plan for revitalization of downtown that emphasized the need to get businesses back into the area by encouraging more foot traffic and retail shopping, Campbell said.

"I was thrilled with the presentation," said Campbell.

Campbell supported the ODDA's suggestion to convert a historic gas station into a local visitors center, as well as other ideas. But the council opted to have the station torn down and a parking lot was placed in its stead. The city did put in a small downtown plaza with a grassy area and a water feature, "which is lovely," she noted.

"Anything that beautifies the city is always a No. 1 priority for me," Campbell said. "I would support any improvements that they made."

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

Rogue River seeks money to spruce up city