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City seeking proposals for Main Street management
By Terri Harber
Baker City has published its Request for Proposals, RFPs, for those interested in managing the Main Street program for downtown property owners.
An Economic Development District, EID, funds the program. City councilors approved Ordinance No. 3324 on Sept. 24, which allows the EID to go on for another five years.
The EID could stop if enough downtown property owners vote not to continue, however.
The RFP states that Baker City’s program recently “has failed to meet the requirements of being designated a Performing Main Street level community and will be downgraded to a Transforming Main Street designation.”
Among things required from a Main Street program is to provide “guaranteed employment” of a full-time executive director or program manager, as well as to conduct certain activities and regularly gather specified advisory committees, according to Oregon Main Street Services.
The goal of Baker City’s and other similar Main Street programs across the state is to establish “high quality, livable, and sustainable communities that will grow Oregon’s economy while maintaining a sense of place.”
Current local program administrator, Historic Baker City Inc., recently dismissed its executive director, Kate Dimon, because conditions are too financially unpredictable to guarantee her employment. Another longer term concern has been that not all meetings and activities have been held regularly.
“It is very important to the City Council and the downtown community to reestablish the ‘Performing Main Street Program’,” the RFP also states.
This is the first time the city has put together an RFP for management of the Main Street Program. HBC has had the responsibility since the EID was created. It will seek to manage the program once again, Gene Stackle, president of HBC, said in October.
No other person or group has expressed interest in taking on the responsibility — at least so far, said City Manager Mike Kee.
Concerns arose among city officials about the HBC partnering with another nonprofit, Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida, to acquire the former local Bank of America branch at 1790 Washington Ave., historically known as the Ison House, without prior approval by the HBC board or consideration of other potential real estate partners.
Other issues, such as problems with balloting for this year’s board member elections, also worried city officials.
The situation didn’t extend to the HBC’s funds being in any danger as a result of any recent actions, however, they emphasized at the time.
Councilor Dennis Dorrah doesn’t want to see a new organization started but would prefer the city take more of a hands-on approach with HBC from now on.
“The structure’s already there,” Dorrah said.
He also wants to see the city councilors provide HBC with more money to carry out its long list of responsibilities.
The city’s current representative to HBC is Councilor Barbara Johnson.
Councilor Clair Button had that responsibility previously and expressed alarm about some of HBC’s activities in a detailed report to the other councilors earlier this year.
Councilors and HBC participants met in June to discuss one another’s interests.
“My concern is if the ordinance is not renewed, HBC will cease to exist in its present form,” Stackle said at the time. “We’re ready to move forward.”
What the city wants from a program manager
One of the requirements of the person or entity that would manage the program is to maintain “a long-term, adequate, and stable funding strategy.”
The budget will be submitted to the state coordinator of Oregon Main Street Services and Baker City Council. And the report should include funding from the EID as well as “other resources and sponsorships,” according to the RFP.
Among other requirements of the program manager are:
• Developing and maintaining broad-based support for downtown revitalization efforts.
• Attending Oregon Main Street Network Meetings and Workshops as well as the annual Oregon Main Street Conference.
• Maintaining accreditation as a National Main Street community.
• Maintaining the primary focus area on the traditional historic commercial core.
• Maintaining membership in the National Main Street network.
The economic improvements to be carried out in the EID during the five-year contract period will include:
• Maintaining or re-establishing the Oregon Main Street Program certification.
• Continuing the Historic Facade Renovation Program.
• Assisting property owners in meeting code challenges for mixed-used development.
• Strengthening “Discover Downtown Baker City” and “Shop Local/Shop First” Campaigns.
• Creating new image campaigns, retail promotions and special events to attract downtown shoppers.
• Managing downtown promotional events annually, with an emphasis on HBC’s signature events: Fall Festival and Historic Homes Tour.
• Continuing Streetscape Improvements Project by expanding amenities further into district.
• Implementing a small business retention/expansion/recruitment program, as well as address building occupancy issues; find new economic uses for traditional buildings.
• Developing financial incentives and capital for building rehabilitations and business development via 50/50 matching grant programs, other funding sources, and local financial institutions.
• Addressing growth and regulation issues, especially downtown parking management.
• Maintaining the westbound and eastbound Freeway Welcome I-84 billboard.
• Enhancing the image of the commercial district by facilitating cleanup of unoccupied buildings, alleyways, and storefronts to improve appearance.
• Submitting to the city council updated work plans outlining tasks, goals, and objectives.
The RFP also points out that additional funding for these aforementioned projects “may be pursued through grants or other public programs.”
The deadline to apply as program manager is Nov. 22 at 5 p.m. See bakercity.com for details.
There will be a public hearing about continuing the EID at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 12, at Baker City Hall, 1655 First St.
The city has received five remonstrance (objection) letters so far from property owners, Kee said.
It would take objections by property owners representing 33 percent of the total assessment area to stop the EID.