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No one grabs lead on downtown revitalization efforts

GRANDVIEW - Both the City of Grandview and the local Chamber of Commerce support the idea of revitalizing Grandview's downtown corridor. However, exactly who will take the lead is something that has yet to be decided.

Downtown revitalization is something the City of Grandview has looked at during two of its recent meetings. Tuesday night, Council members asked representatives from the local Chamber of Commerce to join in the discussion.

"Downtown revitalization is a high priority in this community," said City Administrator Jim Sewell. "But the chamber needs to take the lead."

Grandview Chamber of Commerce President Jim Herriman reported to Council members that the Chamber is currently in a state of rebuilding both its membership and its involvement in the community.

"Our motto this year is 'More in 2004,'" Herriman said. "We're striving for the chamber of commerce to be self sufficient and a very professional organization in this community."

Herriman said the issue of downtown revitalization is one the Chamber board of directors discussed at its last meeting.

"Everyone on the chamber is for it," Herriman said. But, he added that since the chamber is in the process of rebuilding, it doesn't have a lot of resources, as far as taking the lead on a project the size of downtown revitalization.

Instead, he said he would like to see someone put in charge. A single person whose sole duty it would be to drive the downtown revitalization project.

"We would like to see someone put in that position that has that desire," Herriman said. "[Someone] to fill in the gap when we're sitting in our offices running our businesses."

Sewell said another route the city and chamber can take when it comes to downtown revitalization is hiring a consulting firm to lay the groundwork.

"But it's going to cost," Sewell said, noting that it might be possible to acquire grants to help cover the cost of the consultant.

Herriman then pointed to a packet of information presented by the city about past revitalization efforts. In 1987, an economic development plan was created for the community, outlining objectives that included revitalizing downtown and increasing tourism. The plan, which was unveiled in 1989, included improvements to the intersection at Second and Division streets, adding directional signage to Main Street, constructing a civic plaza and putting in trees.

"We've already done the consulting," Herriman said. "We spent the money already to develop a plan."

However, Councilman Robert Morales noted that the climate of downtown Grandview has changed since 1987. He said before the plans from 17 years ago could be used, an assessment would have to be done to ensure that what would have worked nearly two decades ago would still work today.

Sewell suggested hiring someone to put together some preliminary guidelines for a revitalization plan as a way to ensure that everyone involved is on the same page. He also noted that the community has an important resource in Yakima Valley Community College, suggesting that perhaps students from the school could help do some of the legwork for the project.

Mayor Mike Bren said the important thing right now is determining whether or not downtown revitalization is something the businesses located in the downtown corridor would support.

"They should all be involved in what downtown should look like," Bren said.

He asked Herriman if he thought the Chamber could work to contact local business owners and ask them to take a look at downtown and decide if revitalization is something they would support, and if so what they are looking for in a revitalization plan.

"We want to see the downtown revitalized," Herriman said. "[But] we want to see the chamber revitalized too."

Herriman said the downtown revitalization project is something the Chamber can't take on by itself.

"It's going to take everybody," he said. "I don't think it should just fall on one organization."

Bren told Herriman that the project is something the city is not trying to "dump" on the Chamber. Instead, he said the city simply wants to find out if it's something local businesses are interested in.

"I think there's a heck of an opportunity here," Sewell said. "I think the more we put into it at this juncture the better off we'll be in the future."

In the end, Herriman said the Chamber will work to gather as much information as possible from downtown business owners, and help to shape the plan for downtown revitalization.

. Elena Olmstead can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or e-mail her at eolmstead@eaglenewspapers.com

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