Downtown Umatilla is getting a new look.

The city’s growth is prompting several new projects this year, including a city hall remodel and a $6.1 million overhaul of Sixth Street, the main road through Umatilla’s downtown.

City Manager David Stockdale said the city has added several new positions in a little over a year, including the four-person community development department. They are looking to add more, but have already converted a conference room into an office after running out of offices.

“We don’t have room for everyone,” he said.

The council approved $100,000 for a remodel of city hall, built in 2003, during the current fiscal year. Stockdale said the final design will make more efficient use of the staff area by adding extra offices and a wheelchair-accessible front desk area. The city hopes by mid-2021 to create a second phase that would expand city hall’s footprint on the south side to add six additional offices and a break room.

The city also recently purchased the former post office on the other side of the park next to city hall. Stockdale said after either Phase 1 or Phase 2 of the city hall remodel they plan to remodel the post office building into offices for the community development department, which will likely include parks and recreation staff and a building inspector by that point.

Stockdale said the city would also like to use part of the large building as a “business incubator.” They would offer limited-time leases at below-market rates for people starting a new business. The idea would be to help new businesses get on their feet with lower overhead costs for the first year before moving to a vacant space elsewhere in town. The city is also reaching out to Blue Mountain Community College and Eastern Oregon University to discuss partnerships that could be housed in that building.

The park and the street in between could also become a sort of “festival street” area for community events, Stockdale said.

“It would kind of create a civic center, a central campus,” he said.

As the city looks at building projects, it is also working with the Oregon Department of Transportation on a project to reconstruct 14 blocks of Sixth Street through downtown. The project has been talked about for years, Stockdale said, but it will go out to bid late March or early April with the goal of starting construction during the summer and wrapping up by the end of 2019.

The city is paying for about $1 million of the $6.1 million project, with the rest coming from state and federal grants.

“We really owe a lot of things to ODOT,” Stockdale said. “They’re picking up the lion’s share of the cost.”

The project will include a complete reconstruction of street, curbs and gutters. One goal beyond beautification is for the bulb-outs, colorful stamped concrete, decorative lighting, an illuminated pedestrian crossing and other elements to help travelers on Highway 730 recognize they are passing through a downtown and slow down and be more alert for pedestrians.

“We expect it to really look quite beautiful,” Stockdale said.

The city has been installing new water and sewer infrastructure under Sixth Street in the hopes of not having to tear up any of the new street for years to come.

To complete downtown’s new look, Stockdale said the city will continue working with property owners on cleanup, and will look at making more money available for façade grants and lowering the required match.

All the projects reflect the city’s efforts to accommodate new growth in Umatilla. According to the city, in 2010 Umatilla saw new construction valued at $307,076. In 2013, that number rose to almost $11.8 million. In 2017 the city saw $27.5 million in new construction, and in 2018 that rose to $48.2 million.

While some of the construction has been industrial and commercial, Stockdale said housing construction is booming and in the past week he spoke with multiple housing developers interested in new projects in Umatilla.

“We’re going to see residential growth this year that I don’t believe the city has ever seen before,” he said.

Reporter

Reporter covering city government and economic development in Hermiston, Umatilla, Stanfield and Echo.

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