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Jesus Morfin of Emory & Sons of Salem does the concrete finish work on a curb at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Lyons Street in January 2018 as the streetscape piece of Albany's urban renewal program was winding down. 

Urban renewal districts are a commonly used development tool in Oregon.

In fact, Elaine Howard, the consultant hired by the city of Corvallis to work on its urban renewal plan, has served as an adviser on 38 separate districts statewide.

This is the second attempt at a district in Corvallis. A proposal for a district for the downtown core and portions of South Corvallis from Fillmore Avenue to Crystal Lake Drive, and from Sixth Street to the Willamette River, failed on a 55 percent to 45 percent vote in May 2009.

One key difference between the new proposal and the 2009 version was that no specific projects were designated in advance for urban renewal funds in 2009. Rather, a Downtown Commission was appointed to recommend ways to spend the $35 million that would be collected over the estimated 20-year life of the district. The City Council, as the designated urban renewal agency, would determine how the money was actually spent.

Here is a look at how urban renewal has been deployed in the mid-valley in recent decades:

Albany

Approved in 2001, the Central Albany Revitalization Area has attracted, city officials say, $70 million in private investment, created 130 new jobs, led to the construction of 274 new housing units and participated in 82 historic preservation projects.

Last summer the two-phase downtown streetscape project was completed. It added new sidewalks, removed and replaced trees, added asphalt paving on the streets surrounding the Albany Post Office, and created 47 back-in angled parking spaces adjacent to the post office in phase 1.

The second phase involved new sidewalks, curb ramps, water lines, trees and lighting on Lyon and Ellsworth streets; new street lighting, street trees, street furniture, sidewalks, asphalt pavement and water lines on Second and Third avenues; new water lines and full street reconstruction on Calapooia Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues and on two sections of Broadalbin; and new sidewalk, curb ramps and street trees on Ferry Street between Third and Fourth avenues.

The final project cost was approximately $11 million for the two phases. Of that, about $8.435 million came from the Central Albany Revitalization Area. It's CARA's biggest investment in public infrastructure to date and had been planned since the district was formed in 2001.

Coming up for CARA are public/private development of Water Avenue along the riverfront and redevelopment of the Wells Fargo Bank site at 300 First Ave. The Water Avenue project might include expansion of public park space on the north side of Water. The Wells Fargo site, which was purchased by the urban renewal agency for $1.5 million earlier this month, is being proposed for a possible mixed-use or commercial/retail development.

Albany’s urban renewal efforts sparked some political blowback. North Albany resident Tom Cordier was successful in 2013 with a ballot measure that requires expansions of the urban renewal district to go to the voters, but his challenge to the financing mechanism for urban renewal was rejected in April 2016 by a Linn County judge.

Lebanon

In an amusing bit of municipal rivalry an individual testifying in favor of the Corvallis district before the City Council noted that Lebanon already had three districts. “Lebanon!” she thundered.

Yes, Lebanon already has three districts, and the city is working on a fourth.

The first three districts, the Cheadle Lake, the North Gateway and the Northwest Lebanon, mainly provided water, sewer and street improvements for industrial development, as well as the Samaritan Health Sciences campus on the north side of town.

The new URD would encompass 51.3 downtown acres and would include the following: Ralston Park improvements; corner ramps on sidewalks per the Americans with Disabilities Act; streetscaping; street reconstruction; design consultation; building restorations; public restrooms and downtown residential development. The Lebanon City Council unanimously approved it last November.

Philomath

A district was formed in 1990 that largely tackled infrastructure and facilities. The projects completed include repair and replacement of sanitary sewers, water mains, storm sewers and streets.

In 2010 the district was expanded to include the west end of Applegate Street from just west of Seventh Street to 15th Street. The maximum indebtedness was increased to $14.3 million. Inclusion of this property will allow the city and district to move forward with streetscape improvements designed to benefit the downtown business district and add a new west entrance to the city via Applegate Street.

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Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@gazettetimes.com or 541-758-9542. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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