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Welcome to the new North Bend: Locals weigh in on future face of city hall, downtown | Photo gallery
A lot of people were asking a lot of questions at the June 24 work-study session of the North Bend City Council: Why not use the space on the roof? Have you thought about Si View? Where else could the police go? Would the historic district be preserved? How are we supposed to pay for this?
They all boiled down to the question that brought the 70-some citizens to the meeting in the first place, which is, what should North Bend do next?
Specifically, city staff and officials were asking citizens to think about whether or not to replace the aging City Hall building, and with what.
“We’ve heard from people who would like to see a real sense of place in the downtown,” said City Administrator Londi Lindell at the start of the meeting. “They’d like to see some public plazas, a downtown park or old-fashioned town square. So the first question we’re going to ask you is do we just keep it basic, city hall, or should we consider a civic center?”
The assembled audience, broken into groups of about 10 at different tables, was asked to discuss the city hall replacement as a separate question from the follow-up question of where a new city hall should go, if called for.
People almost unanimously agreed on replacing city hall —nearly 70 years old, seismically unstable and soon to be half empty when the fire department moves into its new station on Malone Grove Avenue Southeast—by the end of the night.
“Doing nothing was pretty much not an option,” said Deanna Haverfield, one of the group facilitators, reporting back at the end of the meeting.
Also, 40 of the 53 ‘votes’ citizens cast on the question of city hall alone vs. civic center-hall combination went to the combination.
Most also agreed that whatever the city did, it should have an element of identity building for North Bend, or economic stimulation for the downtown.
“I think this downtown core is so important to revitalization, that you can do nothing, but if you do nothing, it’s going to hamper our growth,” said Danny Kolke, owner of Boxley’s Place.
Kolke, who’s operated Boxley’s for four years now, spoke before the focus groups began their discussions, from the perspective of a downtown business. “We need more businesses downtown to grow with us, alongside of us,” he said. “If we’re staring across at vacant buildings for another five years, I don’t know if we’ll be able to survive. We need something to happen downtown to bring more businesses in, to create more energy and businesses here.”
Geoff Doy, a member of North Bend’s branding and marketing team, also spoke, to give residents some context on the location question. Each group’s worksheet listed four locations, most of them related to downtown traffic and stimulation — downtown on North Bend Way, downtown off North Bend Way, the current location on Main Street and the city’s public works building further down North Bend Way.
“How do we attract people to come downtown?” Doy asked, adding that this was the question that he, Guy Lawrence, and Martin Volken started with when they began their work almost three years ago. “We talked about the plaza experience… started talking about a civic center, which I’m a huge supporter of, because it does a couple of things. It anchors downtown. If we get it right, we can build retail underneath, we can have offices upstairs, all of the city’s employees will be downtown. There will be reason for people to come down, whether it’s just to pay their utility bills… It will be an anchor enterprise for downtown, and it will encourage other businesses to come downtown.”
Most of the groups also wanted to see a new city hall/civic center downtown. They cast 44 votes combined for a downtown location—24 on North Bend Way, 20 off—and only six for the current location, four for the public works building, and nine suggestions for other locations (some voted twice on the location discussion and didn’t vote on the city hall-civic center issue). Among the nine other suggestions were: Alongside the Si View Community Center; the current Post Office property; and, still downtown but one block further, North Bend Way between Main and Ballarat. This property was suggested as an alternate to the “Downtown on North Bend Way” properties that the council had considered in a March work-study, five buildings on the north side of North Bend Way between Bendigo and Main, many of which are part of the city’s historic landmark district, established in 2000.
The meeting wrapped up with someone from each group reporting back their table’s thoughts, with pros and cons for each location proposed.
Financing of the project, brought up at the start of the meeting by business owner Chris Garcia, was discussed only briefly, because Lindell said this meeting was only the beginning of a lengthy process. She listed possible sources of funding as grants, selling off surplus city properties, and a possible bond, but said, “that’s going to be a future meeting. We have to decide how to finance this thing.”
Preliminary estimates suggest the cost of new construction would range from $350 to $490 per square foot, or $11 to $15 million. The building proposed in the estimate was 31,300 square feet, including a 16,500 square foot civic center, plaza areas, parking, multi-purpose spaces, and the preservation of existing buildings.
For now, the topic goes back to the council for further study.
North Bend Mayor Ken Hearing welcomes roughly 70 people to the city's first focus group session on possible plans for a new city hall. Personally, he said, he wants to see a civic center in the city, but he also wanted to hear about what the citizens want.
Colorful dots, the votes of one focus group, reflect the overall trend of the evening's discussion, in favor of a civic center, either stand-alone or in combination with a new city hall.
Danny Kolke shares the perspective of a downtown business owner with people at the June 24 focus group meeting on a possible new city hall and civic center for North Bend. He called for some type of downtown revitalization, but said he didn't know what that would look like.
A group debates the merits of a civic center/city hall combination, with input from city staff and elected officials.
One possible look for a new city hall/civic center combination, this rendering was presented as part of a March council work-study session on the issue.
Councilman Ryan Kolodejchuk, at the head of the table, took part in the discussion at his table during Monday's focus group sessions. Each councilman who attended hosted a table, helping to answer questions and clarify information.