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Grad students gather feedback on Umatilla downtown revitalization

Students from Portland State University are writing a revitalization plan for the city of Umatilla.
By Jade McDowell

Staff Writer

Published on March 15, 2017 6:48AM

Sam Roberts, left, shows Umatilla residents a map where they can place stickers to indicate their favorite place in the community.

Staff photo by Jade McDowell

Sam Roberts, left, shows Umatilla residents a map where they can place stickers to indicate their favorite place in the community.

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Notes written by Umatilla residents make suggestions for what they want to see more of downtown.

Staff photo by Jade McDowell

Notes written by Umatilla residents make suggestions for what they want to see more of downtown.

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Matt Tsui makes a collage about his favorite parts of Umatilla during an open house event Friday.

Staff photo by Jade McDowell

Matt Tsui makes a collage about his favorite parts of Umatilla during an open house event Friday.

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Walking trails along the river, a marina and a nationally recognized robotics team were all strengths listed by Umatilla residents at an open house Friday night.

The event, held at Umatilla High School, encouraged residents to draw pictures, write on posters, put stickers on maps and add to a photo album to show what are their favorite things about Umatilla. The information is being gathered by Portland State University graduate students who are writing a downtown revitalization plan for Umatilla as a final project.

“We’re working really hard to create a document by the community, for the community,” PSU student Laura Voss said. “We have our own ideas, but we want to hear from people who live here.”

Voss said the plan might focus on the Sixth Street area, but the group wants to tie the best parts of Umatilla to downtown and help the community be more cohesive. They plan to follow the open house up with focus groups and interviews that reach out to various demographics in the community

Amber Ayers, project manager, said the students have been working with city staff to look at what work has already been done, and they got an extensive tour of the city.

“I spent my morning walking around Umatilla, taking photos,” she said. “What a beautiful site.”

One of the stations that people were encouraged to stop at on Friday was a large map of the city, where stickers were available to place on favorite locations.

“Definitely the marina park is a popular choice,” technical lead Sam Roberts said, pointing to the map. “We have Java Junkies, and we’ve got a lot of runners marking the trail.”

Umatilla resident Tina Ridings said she attended Friday’s event because she is “highly vested in the community.” She said some people have a negative perception of Umatilla.

“We are so much more,” she said. “Robotics has put us on the map. Our after-school programs are used as a model for the nation.”

City councilor Mark Ribich was one of several city officials who attended. He said he was pleased with the event’s turnout and hoped the Portland State students were able to get “mass involvement” as they work on their revitalization plan over the next few months.

“This is going to happen,” he said. “We are going to make changes to downtown one way or another, so we want it to be something the community wants.”

At the March 7 city council meeting, the council approved a contract with the students, all pursuing a master’s degree in urban and regional planning, making the relationship official. City manager Russ Pelleberg said the group, under the name Confluentis Planning, is the only group of students that chose a city in Eastern Oregon to focus on. He said their work will dovetail with downtown revitalization work that he and Ribich have been doing, and with a future community development department.

“We’re pretty excited about it,” he said.

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Contact Jade McDowell at jmcdowell@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4536.





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