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Editor's Notes: Progress in The Dalles

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Robin Doussard
Sunday, September 20, 2009
I’ve reported on the city of The Dalles for several years and marvel at the patience and perseverance those folks have for the arduous process of remaking their downtown, a hard-by-the-rails hodge-podge of discount stores and small boutiques; part beautifully restored historic buildings and part eyesores.

The town was cut off from the Columbia River when I-84 was built decades ago, and city officials have ambitious plans to turn the town back around to face the river that include a second highway underpass; completion of a riverfront trail; restoration of historic buildings; and upgrading the look of First, Third and Fourth streets.

More than two years ago I wrote about how the much-heralded arrival of a Google server farm belied the decades of hard work and planning that kept the town moving forward despite its boom-bust cycle that started with the aluminum downturn in the ’80s. The town also struggles with historically high unemployment, high poverty rates and low wages. And this recession has been as brutal to them as anyone.

But a bit of stimulus money is helping move forward a key piece in the redevelopment of The Dalles’ downtown core. The redevelopment of the old Sunshine Biscuit mill at the east end of town recently received $2.8 million in federal funding going to crucial road improvements at the site.

Construction began in late August to redo the intersection of Brewery Grade Road and Highway 30, and the road project, awarded to local firm Crestline Construction, should be complete by May 2010, according to The Dalles city manager Nolan Young. Improving the intersection was necessary before a $24 million complex at the mill could go forward.

The project, by local developer James Martin, includes a plaza, condos, offices, retail space and the Quenett Winery, expected to be in operation in late September. Earlier this summer, the city also approved a $500,000 loan to Discovery Development/Quenett Winery to help develop the first floor of the mill, which includes the winery.

More than two years ago, I interviewed Martin, who was at the time disappointed by the delay of fixing the intersection. In characteristic terms for many who live in The Dalles, he said: “It’s a long, slow process. But I’m going to be here for the rest of my life.”

A long, slow process that finally begins with the fixing of a road.

Robin Doussard is editor of Oregon Business.

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