Newport City Councilors Monday decided to move ahead with a proposal to take Newport into a new phase of what they hope will be substantial economic growth by improving the look and function of Newport’s two major thoroughfares – Highway 101 north of the bridge and Highway 20 from 101 east to around Moore Road. Both contain a lot of buildings and streetscapes that have been well worn for decades. By hiring a consultant to examine these areas for a new urban renewal designation the council will hopefully learn what can be done to give the town a much needed facelift.
Although the way urban renewal works is complicated and universally produces puzzled looks and/or rolling eyes when its mathematical gyrations are explained to the average citizen, it can make impressive positive changes in communities where it’s enacted. The city’s Visual Art Center, Performing Arts Center, the Nye Beach renaissance and Hatfield Marine Science Drive projects are products of urban renewal. The council wants to take that power to rebuild Newport’s aging face on 101 from just north of the Yaquina Bay Bridge to as far north as financially feasible – and easterly on Highway 20 toward Moore Road. Consultant EcoNorthwest will run the financials on those facelifts, sewer, water and traffic improvements against the city’s current tax base in those specific areas to see if it pencils out. City staff will also talk with the county, the school district, the library district and other affected taxing districts to elicit their cooperation as well. None of it – NONE of it entails a specific tax increase for the average taxpayer. However it does mean that as property values rise within the urban renewal project area as the result of the improvements, a portion of those higher tax revenues will be used to pay off the bonds, loans or other financial instruments that were used for improvement projects – things like new store front facades, utility undergrounding, knocking down old buildings and building new, a one-way couplet through the downtown, etc.
Again, EcoNorthwest will be examining what the city wants to do, run the math and see if it’s financially feasible. Community Director Derrick Tokos said the study will take a number of months to complete. When it’s done, he will bring the results back to the city council for review and determination whether a new urban renewal district should be formed, the boundaries of it, and what improvements in those specific areas will produce higher property values over time and therewith higher tax revenues to pay off the costs of the improvements.