Calling it another victory in the revitalization of downtown, Tigard Mayor John Cook cut the ceremonial ribbon last week in celebration of the completion of a $3 million streetscape project.
Cupcakes, coffee and cocoa were shared at Symposium Coffee at the corner of Main Street and Tigard Street, with excitement evident over the wrap-up of the 11-month construction period.
The new Main Street features wider sidewalks, corner bulb-outs, street trees, decorative lampposts, benches and planters.
“We’ve commissioned an artist and are putting a piece of art on both ends of Main Street,” Cook said.
Having a more pedestrian friendly main street is something leaders heard loud and clear from the community before these upgrades, said Sean Farrelly, Tigard's redevelopment project manager. He said the pedestrian and environmental benefits will also help the economy.
"The improved street makes a better street for businesses, for attracting customers, people who will visit multiple businesses," he said.
But some local business owners have concerns about the new concepts for the area.
“It’s not a walking district. You want to pull up, do your business, get in your car and go,” said Darby Maybarry, owner of Tigard Cleaners. “It does look nice. Everybody said it really needed face lift, and it did. I just wish we had more parking.”
Curbside parking was reduced when sidewalks were widened and bioswales and containment areas went in. Even though the city built a separate public lot, the area lost a net of about 10 spaces, Cook said.
With pavement replacement from doorstep to doorstep across Main Street sending customers to do business at back doors, Maybarry said it was a long year for all the business owners.
"What helped us stay in business was loyal customers coming down to support us," she said.
Now that construction is coming to an end, leaders' focus is on getting the community back into the area. Attendance at the Tigard Street Fair in August doubled this year, despite the major construction period being only three-quarters complete. The Tigard Downtown Alliance also hosted the first Tigard Art Walk in June, installing local artist submissions in 19 businesses in the area. The event is scheduled to return next May.
Steve DeAngelo, president of the Tigard Downtown Alliance, describes this as a transition time for the area.
The alliance is working hard to learn from other successful boulevards in the region to adapt the area into a main street model, DeAngelo said. They have even secured $52,000 in grant funds from the Washington County Visitors Association to continue to install additional benches, banners, bike racks and a bike fix-it station in the corridor.
"I celebrate with Tigard as they score another victory in their progress to revitalize their downtown and make it truly the heart of their community,” said Metro Councilor Craig Dirksen, a former Tigard mayor, in an email.
Green street benefits
In addition to the local community benefits, the green street elements that were developed in this project will significantly impact the water quality running into Fanno Creek, which runs right through downtown, said project manager Kim McMillan.
It's one of the reasons Metro awarded $2.5 million in Regional Flexible Fund grants for the $3 million project. The flexible funds come from the federal government to the Portland region, and are distributed to projects by the Metro Council.
Green street design, one of Metro’s priorities for the flex funds grant cycle for which this project was a part, focuses on reducing the impact the road, traffic and local development have on the surrounding natural environment through purposeful, natural and aesthetic infrastructure. The primary elements focus on mitigating the volume and contamination level of road runoff on the natural habitat.
Before this development, water just ran off the street right into Fanno Creek, Cook said.
By decreasing the amount of impervious surfaces and directing water to collect in bioswales, the amount of water pouring into nearby waterways is reduced, and the solid and suspended contaminants are filtered through the soil under the swales.
Downtown Tigard is a key point in the regional Southwest Corridor Shared Investment Strategy, which identified transit, roadway, bicycle, pedestrian and natural area improvements throughout this part of the region.
The goal of multimodal development, said Metro transportation engineer Anthony Buczek, is to make an environment where people feel more comfortable walking and biking.
Main Street is a stop along the growing Fanno Creek Trail, which will provide pedestrians and cyclists with safe and green access all the way to Tualatin and Beaverton once it's completed, possibly by 2016. Main Street is also adjacent to the Tigard WES Commuter Rail station, and on the route of five TriMet bus lines.
The new structure of Main Street makes it more pedestrian-oriented to support the business district, Buczek said.
“The overall goal was to take the street, which was currently fairly wide – used by traffic to avoid congestion on Pacific Highway – and make it a lower speed area," he said.
As the ribbon-cutting event wrapped up, McMillan was honored with a golden rearview mirror from DeAngelo. The trophy, DeAngelo said, represents the project being behind them, symbolic of the reprieve at the end of one project which leads enthusiastically into the beginning of something new.