Centralia Council to Discuss $3M Streetscape Project


The Centralia City Council is scheduled to hold a public workshop at 6 p.m. on Tuesday to discuss the estimated $3 million project of streescaping about 3 and a half miles of key roadways connected to the downtown corridor. 

Councilors voted in March to approve a $4 million bond package to fund both the streetscape work and restoration of the Fox Theatre.

City staff and representatives of local firm SCJ Alliance will spend the hour prior to the regular council meeting at 7 p.m. going over a drafted plan for the work, including specific improvements proposed for stretches such as Mellen Street from Interstate 5 to Tower Avenue and Main Street from Pearl Street to Harrison Avenue.

City Manager Rob Hill said Thursday the workshop represents the start of a public input process that will include public meetings similar to those held during the design phase of the Borst Avenue revamping scheduled for this summer. SCJ Alliance completed the planning and design work on that project as well.

Residents of individual neighborhoods will be able to voice their opinions as to what they do or don’t want to see happen on their streets. Improved lighting, pedestrian access and wayfaring signs meant to entice those visiting Centralia to explore all the city has to offer are all possibilities. Some areas, such as Mellen Street, will be given a higher priority for more substantial renovations, said Hill.

“We couldn’t really start the public input process with nothing to show,” Hill said. “We’re putting this out there as a general vision of what this project looks like. We’ll introduce it to the council, have a discussion and see if it’s consistent with their vision before having those focus groups where people can say, ‘Hey, this looks great’ or ‘Don’t do that in front of my place.’”

Council members debated the timing and benefit of the streetscape proposal during meetings prior to and including the one where they voted to approve the bond issue. 

Joyce Barnes cast the lone vote in opposition, stating she felt it would be “putting the cart before the horse.”

Councilor Peter Abbarno gave tepid approval for the project in March, stating his wish for the money to be used to extend sewer lines or other improvements to infrastructure meant to spur economic growth. He said Thursday he hopes to find out more about how the streetscaping will benefit the local economy, as well as what steps will be taken to make arterial streets more welcoming for pedestrians and those needing Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant access points.

“I want to see how we can make Centralia a better city to move around in,” Abbarno said. “There are so many aspects to this project that are important,” Abbarno said. “When you make a neighborhood look better, it’s more attractive to people who want to invest … improving property values is something which citizens won’t be opposed to.”