Group gathers to discuss revitalization of downtown

NORTH BEND - Business owners and city officials are hoping an upcoming economic summit on May 15 can breathe new life into North Bend's downtown financial district that fell on tough times when the freeway was rerouted to the south in the mid-'70s, taking with it hundreds of potential shoppers and their money.

In an effort to gauge what topics hold the greatest interest for next month's summit, Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce officials, along with city administrators, local business owners and the city's Economic Development Commission, met April 23 for an informal discussion of what issues the downtown area faces on the road to economic recovery and, hopefully, future prosperity.

Topics of discussion ranged from what some feel is a lack of communication between business owners and city officials, to a need to bring workers to the area via office space, which will, in turn, find them spending money at local establishments. At the heart of the discussion was the need to bring people to the city to spend needed dollars.

"What we need right now is to look toward a vision for our city," said Susan Sherman, business owner and chair of the Economic Development Commission.

The May 15 summit was conceived by the Economic Development Commission, a city-appointed group charged with working with business owners to revamp the downtown area.

The summit is aimed at creating an economic roadmap for the future of downtown North Bend by defining a vision, objectives, goals and an action plan for the revitalization of downtown, said Tonie Cook, management analyst for the city and commission liaison.

The results of the summit will help to shape the development of an Economic Development Element for the city's Comprehensive Plan. City officials are hoping that plan will help to nurture and create incentives for local businesses.

To date the commission has seen a modicum of success in its revitalization efforts, with sales receipts up 26 percent in the city since 1998.

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