Making improvements

The improvements on Front Street are an example of infrastructure work needed to attract new businesses and more tourism.

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Assisting local businesses, attracting news ones and growing the tourism industry are just three of many goals Crescent City is looking to embrace as it views a future without COVID-19 restrictions.

During a virtual community workshop last week, the city council and dozens of city residents took part in an interactive economic development strategic action plan meeting. During the meeting, Rob Holmlund with PlanWest Partnership, Inc., presented a plan the city has been putting together and asked those listening in to rank their priorities in a variety of subjects.

City Manager Eric Wier said creating a plan is important, but having a plan that leads to action in the city is the real key. He explained when he was hired, he found many folders with economic development plans that had never been implemented.

“This has been a long time coming,” Wier said. “For us as a city, it’s about positioning ourselves properly. That’s what this is about tonight. 2020 was tough. 2021 is full of optimism.”

The plan the city is working on has nine sections, with goals in each section. The ultimate goal, Holmlund said is to grow the collective economy of the city, grow the standard of living for all residents and enhance the quality of life. He said the plan should be viewed as an economic development cookbook, with a variety of recipes that can be accomplished.

For Councilman Beau Smith, the plan was a good step, but he said any changes must keep Crescent City unique.

“My youngest daughter is 14,” Smith said. “When she grows up, I want her to have the same memories of Crescent City I have. We’re different. Crescent City and Del Norte County, we’re separate.”

Blake Inscore, the longest-serving member of the council, said the economic development plan must look forward, not backwards.

“We will never be what we once were,” Inscore said. “We can be where we are and we can be better, but we’ll never be where we once were. Our community wants to come together to invest in this community to become a destination where tourists come. That is no longer a stump speech. It is a reality.”

Inscore said the key is to have every business and every person embrace that idea and to focus on customer service to prove it.

“I believe we have an awesome opportunity in front of us right now,” he said.

Mayor Pro Tem Alex Campbell agreed, saying Crescent City must give people a reason to stop when driving through.

“If you travel up the coast of Oregon, there are so many small towns you want to stop in,” he said. “This can also be that town, but we need to invest in the community. I would love for this to be a tourism hub as well as an industrial hub. We’re on the border with Oregon, and I think we capitalize on that more. Sometimes the place between the big cities can be beneficial. You have to have a place for people to sop, but you want them to stop. You can’t be a drive-through community.”

The goals listed during the meeting were:

  • Strengthening the economic development team and partnerships
  • Creating a system for data acquisition and analysis
  • Streamline regulations
  • Stimulate private sector development
  • Retain and attract jobs
  • Improve infrastructure
  • Beautification and tourism
  • Enhance downtown
  • Acknowledge local businesses

When those in attendance voted on their priorities, beautification and tourism, retain and attract jobs and stimulate private sector development were the top three.

Members of the council had their own ideas, too.

“Before COVID, I probably would have had different answers,” Smith said. “But now that we’re in a pandemic, attacking infrastructure and job development.”

“If we’re going to invest in tourism, we have to invest in downtown,” Inscore said. “Those two there go together.”

Mayor Jason Greenough said beautification was a key step.

“People come to drive-through communities and if it looks sketchy, they don’t stop,” he said. “I’m not saying Crescent City looks sketchy, but there’s room for improvement.”

The plan also laid out economic development districts and asked attendees to vote. The voters said downtown, the harbor district and the Front Street area should be top priorities.

When asked about specific plans, or recipes, that should be worked on, the people voted for similar topics, picking implementing the Beachfront Master Plan, revitalizing the harbor and revitalizing downtown as the top three.

With housing at a shortage, one of the goals was to address that. The plan called for the city to create a list of sites that could be developed and to work with builders to get things moving. The goal would be to have 100 new units in the permitting pipeline at a time.

When asked what the strengths of the community were, voters strongly favored the small-town feeling, the natural environment and U.S. 101 moving through town.

At the end of the meeting, the council seemed excited about moving forward. That was the key, they said, the city had to act.

“I really look forward to picking a few of these and diving in and getting something done,” Inscore said.

Greenough agreed, saying it is time for the city to act.

“We can’t start with a defeatist attitude,” he said. “The thing I love about our staff is we are really building our partnerships. I see us moving forward. I’m excited. This plan we’ve got here, it’s top notch. It’s nice to have a plan, but it doesn’t do anything if we don’t take it off the shelf.”

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