March 9, 2019 — (Editor’s Note: Viewpoint submissions on this and other topics are always welcome as part of our goal to encourage community discussion and exchange of perspectives.)
Guest Viewpoint by Cindy Brent Wobbe, Florence resident and business owner
March 9, 2019 — I have owned a business on Highway 101, right in the center of the area slated for upgrades and improvements, since 1998 and have been a vocal advocate for renewal and revitalization of Florence’s original “downtown.”Many will have noticed that construction has begun on Highway 101 for the “ReVision Florence” project. I am in favor of this project and excited to see it finally launch.
You get one chance to make a first impression, and to the tens of thousands of travelers who pass through our little slice of heaven each year and never venture off the highway corridor, the streetscaping of our main street is underwhelming at best and a poor representation of the character of our picturesque community.
Very little attention has been paid to the section of town that encompasses the intersection at Ninth Street to the Siuslaw Bridge, and it shows. ReVision Florence is a timely and cost-effective opportunity to capitalize on ODOT’s long-planned repaving of Highway 101 with systems improvements and visual enhancements that will provide both a welcoming gateway into Old Town and an attractive transition into the more recently improved “uptown” corridor.
It is an important investment in the long-term economic health of our community, and it has been a long time overdue.
However, there is always a downside to growth and change. This construction project will impact many small businesses that are located along the affected highway corridor and on the side streets. Access to those businesses will often be difficult; there will be times when they will be without power or water.
Many if not most of these establishments depend on the influx of tourism during the peak months to stay in business and provide employment to our friends and neighbors, not to mention support to the many worthwhile charitable efforts and school projects in our community.
A couple of years ago, the City of Eugene undertook a similar road improvement to construct an LTD bus lane on West 11th. During the course of that project, many small businesses on West 11th (and the side streets) permanently closed. I have read reports stating closure rates ranging from 17 percent to 28 percent.
There are many here who are concerned that something similar will happen, and rightly so.
But you can help.
Again, I am in full support of Revision Florence and the new streetscaping that will occur from the Siuslaw Bridge to the intersection at Ninth Street, and I am willing to make sacrifices for the good of the order. I understand that out of necessity, construction must occur between now and late summer/early fall, which is also the time when the greatest amount of income is generated in our community.
But the fact remains: This is going to adversely impact a lot of people.
There is no support or assistance available to these businesses other than you. You can help by making a concerted effort to support them with your dollars. Please go out of your way to eat in those restaurants and shop in those stores now and in the months ahead.
Do it often.
And don’t forget to tip wait staff generously — those folks depend on tips to buy groceries, cover the rent and pay childcare.
We’re going to have a beautiful finished product when it’s done, one that will benefit us all for generations to come.
But until then, let’s all lean in and step up to make sure everyone survives it!