Main Street makes room for improvements: Downtown plaza draws crowd Saturday

Numerous members of the Monroe community came together over the weekend, as local elected officials gathered to celebrate the completion of the downtown Monroe Main Street Plaza Project.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony took place at 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 22, near the corner of Lewis and East Main streets. Attendees included Monroe Mayor Geoffrey Thomas, Monroe city councilmembers Jason Gamble, Jim Kamp, Patsy Cudaback, Ed Davis and Jeff Rasmussen, Washington state Sen. Kirk Pearson, Washington State Department of Ecology Project Manager Melisa Snoeberger, Republic Services Municipal Manager Janet Prichard and general manager Jeff Borgida.

Sky River Bakery, located on the corner of West Main and Blakeley, created a commemorative cake for the event.

Thomas addressed the crowd and thanked all those who helped accomplish the project, meant to help improve downtown walkability, facilitate a more pedestrian-friendly environment and separate stormwater from the city's sanitary sewer system. DOE provided roughly $860,000 in grant funding to help forward the project. The city kicked in for the remaining balance.

The project included the removal of the vertical curbing along one block of East and West Main streets, in order to create a more contiguous space. Sidewalks were widened from 10 feet to 15 feet, and constructed with pervious concrete, a porous material that allows stormwater to filter straight into the groundwater. The parking areas were created out of a different porous material called PaveDrain, which has given the overall streetscape additional contrast and texture.

Bollards and lit bollards (posts) were installed along both sections of the project, along with "pedestrian bulb-outs,GÇ¥ which decrease the distance that pedestrians have to travel as they cross the street. Hand-held pedestrian safety flags were incorporated in several areas.-á

Republic Services donated 30 planter pots valued at roughly $15,000, which were filled with brightly colored flowers and incorporated into the new Main Street Plaza area.

"There has been significant investment in our downtown streetscape, and we're looking forward to doing what we can to help populate these vacant storefronts,GÇ¥ Thomas said.

So far, the Monroe City Council has backed downtown revitalization through its support of the new Downtown Monroe Association and by agreeing to waive permit fees in the downtown core for a period of about a year.

The mayor thanked the existing downtown business owners, who took a hit as a result of the construction. Although the Monroe Chamber of Commerce worked hard to position signage indicating businesses were open throughout the construction process, several businesses, including My LA Fashion and Tijuana's, reported slumping sales numbers.

"I thank our downtown businesses for their patience and understanding as we worked through these improvements,GÇ¥ Thomas said. "I thank the Monroe Chamber of Commerce for their help in designing and implementing this project, including ensuring that people knew the downtown was open during construction.GÇ¥

Councilmember Jason Gamble said he was happy with the results of the council's process, which included a higher level of interaction with the community.

"I don't think there's a single councilmember that wasn't downtown at some time, talking to different businesses for feedback,GÇ¥ Gamble said.

Councilmembers frequently toured the downtown area, chatting with local business owners and even traveling to Duvall to see what wider sidewalks would actually look like. Thomas dedicated numerous Saturday mornings to this effort, sometimes accompanied by others, including councilmembers Kamp and Rasmussen.

Cudaback reflected on the evolution of the project, which created some contention among Monroe residents.

"It was a really tough decision,GÇ¥ Cudaback said. "We had a lot of discussion about it.GÇ¥

Initially, city engineers drafted up two plans; one that continued the angle-in parking and another that featured parallel parking. The city council listened to more than an hour of public testimony from citizens concerned about the transition to parallel parking, which would have reduced the overall number of parking stalls.

To minimize the number of lost stalls, the mayor facilitated a compromise for a parking combination, maintaining the front-oriented angle-in parking on the north side of the street while converting to parallel parking on the south side. Some business owners were unsatisfied with the idea of a compromise, but the measure passed 4-3 in favor of incorporating both parallel and angle parking.

"I've sat on council for six years, and we've talked about making it more pedestrian friendly and how to do that,GÇ¥ Cudaback said. "I think we finally had the opportunity to do so and we took it.GÇ¥

The phased project took place over a period of about four months, with phase one being completed by Road Construction Northwest and phase two by SRV Construction. Thomas acknowledged several other key players, including Monroe Senior Engineer Jim Gardner, Construction Inspector Doug Gould, Engineering Project Technician Jammi Guion and Administrative Assistant Dani Drivstuen-Inthavongsy.

"I appreciate everybody's hard work,GÇ¥ Thomas said. "Monroe is a growing community and this investment lends great opportunity for both new and existing businesses in Monroe.GÇ¥

Photos by Chris Hendrickson The Monroe City Council, state officials and community members came out Saturday, Aug. 22, to celebrate the completion of the downtown Monroe Main Street Plaza Project with a ribbon cutting and commemorative cake. Photo by Chris Hendrickson Councilmember Patsy Cudaback, Jim Kamp, Jason Gamble, Jeff Rasmussen, Mayor Geoffrey Thomas and Councilmember Ed Davis cut the cake, which was prepared for the event by the Sky River Bakery.


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