GRANDVIEW - Some downtown areas across the country are struggling for an identity, but the message brought before a sparse crowd last night was the downtown area of Grandview isn't all that bad off as some might think.
A meeting was held last night at the Grandview senior center to discuss ways to improve and build upon the downtown area.
Gregg Dohrn, a planner with Jones & Stokes of Bellevue, presented some of the information he gathered earlier this week about downtown Grandview.
"We spent some time literally walking up and down the streets," said Dohrn. "We had the opportunity to listen and learn a lot."
Dohrn said the one thing he learned from talking with residents and business owners is there are no shortage of ideas about how to improve the area.
"There are some things that distinguish Grandview from other communities," said Dohrn.
In talking with people, Dohrn said a common theme heard was Grandview needs to establish its own identity, separate from other communities in the Valley.
Dohrn said one of the most valuable assets the community has is the Yakima Valley Community College campus. Dohrn especially liked an idea he heard of putting the city and college library services together as one. The downtown area in Grandview also has many wonderful buildings the community can use to its advantage, said Dohrn. Another plus is that Grandview has a distinctive, well-defined downtown area, said Dohrn.
Dohrn also touched on some of the challenges facing Grandview.
"The appearance of downtown Grandview is not bad, but does it have the appearance you want?" he asked of those in attendance.
Dohrn said there are a number of older buildings in downtown Grandview that need to be better maintained.
Dohrn heard from quite a few people about the challenges in establishing a business in the downtown area. Dohrn also reminded the audience while it is important to bring new business into the downtown area, it is equally as important to assist the existing businesses, which are already supporting the community.
Dohrn said to help improve the downtown area in Grandview the community needs to pay attention to the small items that often get overlooked. One of the cases Dohrn pointed out was that it is very easy to drive past downtown Grandview. He suggested the community look at ways to improve signage that would let people know about and where the downtown area is in Grandview.
Dohrn touched on four areas that are important to the revitalization of the downtown area. The first of which is activities. Dohrn said more activities need to take place in the downtown area to attract people to what is being offered. Dohrn suggested bringing some of the existing events in the community to the downtown area, such as the annual 3-on-3 basketball tournament. He also suggested having a car show or some sort of community concert at Stokely Square. There was also talk of having a night set aside where the community can turn out to see a movie.
"Think about your audience," said Dohrn.
Another important area to address is the appearance of the downtown.
"Think about things that make it a more attractive place," said Dohrn.
Some of the suggestions tossed around included improving the appearance of downtown Grandview by placing benches where people can sit, widening sidewalks and planting trees.
One area Dohrn suggested the community doesn't spend that much time dwelling on is the issue of the color of buildings in downtown. He said the community shouldn't spend their time arguing about the color of a building when there are more pressing issues to address.
As far as supporting the development and growth of businesses, Dohrn suggested having the more experienced business owners in the community work with new business owners. Dohrn said some of the most successful companies in the state are in Grandview and the community should be taking advantage of the owners' knowledge.
The community has already made great strides in working to connect its downtown to people traveling along Interstate 82. Dohrn said one of the more crucial improvements Grandview has made was getting rid of the bridge that used to hang above Wine Country Road. Dohrn said that has greatly improved the aesthetics of the area. Dohrn said Grandview has also down a nice job of improving its entrances into Grandview. Dohrn said Grandview should find a way to build on the prominent wine tourism industry. He said Grandview should take advantage of being the site of the first winery Chateau Ste. Michelle established. He also said the new YVCC expansion into the former Safeway building in downtown Grandview will be a welcomed addition. He felt the city should find a way to build upon the viticulture classes that will be taught at the college.
"That is going to put you on the wine map," said Dohrn.
Dohrn also suggested taking advantage of the rich agricultural history in the area, tossing around the idea of a farmer's market.
Grandview Chamber of Commerce President Jim Herriman said he wanted the community to be known as the friendliest in the Valley. He felt that is something that could make everyone proud. He also wanted to encourage everyone to shop in downtown Grandview because it will benefit the community even more. Herriman encouraged more people in the community to turn out and volunteer.
"If we want to see these things happen, we ourselves need to get involved," said Herriman.
A number of different suggestions were thrown around by audience members, including encouraging RV owners to utilize the fairgrounds. Another suggestion was that the library and the parks and recreation department stop increasing rates for out-of-town residents, to attract more people to the community.
"There are no simple solutions or simple answers," said Dohrn. "It is going to take the (idea) that a few small things can add up.
"One of the things Grandview has going for it is when you put your mind to (do something), it gets done."