When it received a $247,000 grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation for streetscape improvements, the city of Astoria and the Astoria Downtown Historic District Association faced another issue: Hauling in all the assorted items to make downtown prettier.

Luckily for Astoria, the 48-year-old Tongue Point Job Corps Center is chalked full of students who have travelled from around the country to study such trades as cement, electrical, landscaping, glazing and facilities maintenance, just the sort of help the city needed during its Downtown Streetscape Improvement project.

The city gathered more than 80 Job Corps students, their teachers, ADHDA representatives and other stakeholders in the streetscape improvements Friday in the City Council chambers to applaud their efforts. Tongue Point students helped haul in planters and install the salmon-themed trash cans, benches and other improvements.

“Job Corps has a commitment to community service,” said Kevin Riddle, a supervisor of career trades for Tongue Point. He said that a lot of the students who helped out with the streetscape improvements have since graduated and headed into their chosen fields, although some of them were in the gathered crowd.

“The results are amazing to me,” said Astoria Councilwoman Arline LaMear, lauding the Job Corps students and their important role in the community. “They’ve done some wonderful things. They’re an important part of our community.”

In 2010, dilapidated street furniture throughout Astoria’s historic downtown was removed, and upgraded furniture was expected to be put in its place. After the furniture was removed, though, the funds to replace it were no longer available, until the ODOT?grant and local matches reinvigorated the project.

In April, about 20 Job Corps landscaping students assisted the city and other volunteers in placing more than 50 planters throughout downtown, after ODOT grant had come through.

“They were monsters to move around,” said Dulcye Taylor, owner of Old Town Framing Co. and president of the ADHDA, heaping thanks on the many volunteers in the project.

In the planters are a combination of hearty perennials, including Japanese forest grass, dwarf ginkgo trees, Italian cyprus trees and Japanese maples. Various downtown merchants then volunteered to maintain the planters near their businesses.

Later in the spring, downtown Astoria got its new salmon-themed trash cans – an idea LaMear borrowed from a visit to Anacortes, Wash. – benches, bike racks, bike lockers and bus shelters. Along with the ODOT?grant, the city chipped in approximately $10,000 through the Astor East Urban Renewal District, and the Astoria Sunday Market and Columbia Memorial Hospital donated $5,000 each in local matches.

Brett Estes, the community development director for Astoria, said there were a lot of parters in the project. Not present at Friday’s gathering was Mayor Willis Van Dusen, who travelled to Salem to testify on behalf of the streetscape improvements in front of the ODOT?Commission. Estes added that to get the grant, Astoria had to come up with local matches – CMH, the Sunday Market and the urban renewal district obliged.

Mitch Mitchum, board president for the Astoria Sunday Market, said the project was in line with the market’s underlying mission to improve downtown.

In addition to the city and Job Corps, Sunset Empire Transit District helped install the bus shelters.

An honorable mention for the streetscape improvements was presented to the ADHDA at the Excellence in Downtown Revitalization Awards Ceremony Oct. 3 in Corvallis.

 

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