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home : business : business January 24, 2015

3/25/2014 1:28:00 PM
Cascade Ave. construction on schedule
Work crews have earned high marks for their work so far on the Cascade Avenue project. photo by Jerry Baldock
+ click to enlarge
Work crews have earned high marks for their work so far on the Cascade Avenue project. photo by Jerry Baldock

By Jim Cornelius
News Editor

The renovation project on Cascade Avenue is on schedule, according to contractor Knife River. From Larch Street to Elm Street on Highway 20/Cascade Avenue, the old road, curbs, and sidewalks have been removed and the contractor has placed new crushed rock for the road, installed new curbs, and is prepping for installation of new sidewalks.

Electrical conduit for street lighting is almost fully installed in the first three blocks.

Erin Borla, executive director of the Sisters Area Chamber of Commerce, assessed the impact of street closures and construction thus far on the downtown business community:

"I think people are pleased with the speed of construction," she said. "Overall, I think it's still challenging and some people are struggling. What we're seeing is that lunchtimes are down and retail is down."

John Leavitt, who has operated a Western-wear store in downtown Sisters for more than 30 years, offered praise to the work crews under contractor Knife River.

"They've been good about keeping us open as much as they can," he said. "The work part of it, they're doing a great job."

The business climate, however ... not so great.

Though business has been poor, he appreciates the Sisters folks who have made an extra effort.

"Just shop local," he said. "We've heard that some of the churches are telling their congregations the same thing and that's great. And we're getting people who are local and we appreciate it, that's for sure."

Chris Wilder, who became a spokesman for concerned merchants in the run-up to the project, said, "The process is better than I anticipated. I am very, very pleased from a personal standpoint."

Wilder said that "ODOT's done a good job, Knife River's done a really, really good job."

He acknowledged that there is a challenge in getting people to come downtown instead of passing by, but he reported a good weekend to kick off spring break. He also expressed appreciation for the business strolls sponsored by the Sisters Area Chamber of Commerce, one of which was held last Friday.

"The strolls have been fantastic," he said. "We had a lot of folks in. We didn't have a lot of sales, but there's a lot of contact."

The actual construction hasn't hit his block west of Elm Street just yet, and he expressed some apprehension about what April will bring when the construction is right outside his door, but he is hopeful that he'll weather the month and reap the benefits on the other side.

Some restaurants are reportedly still drawing a pretty good dinner crowd and others are doing what they can to drum up traffic.

Borla said that active promotion and communication seem to help.

"Sisters Bakery is doing a great job of that," Borla said.

This week's work will focus on sidewalks, irrigation, and electrical systems in the closed section of highway. During the night, the contractor is also planning on installing more pipe and removing old drywells between Pine Street and Elm Street, using flaggers to control


Pedestrian access will continue to be maintained to all the businesses within the section of closed highway.

The property owner of the Palace Hotel that is located on the corner of Cascade Avenue and Elm Street is doing some additional work to his property along the sidewalk that was scheduled to start on Monday, March 24.

Traffic control changes remain in place and drivers are asked to be alert. There have been complaints of speeding on both Hood and Main avenues.

For all that he is pleased so far with the way the project is being conducted, Wilder speaks for many of his compatriots in being eager to see it done.

"We celebrated ODOT and Knife River coming to town - and we'll celebrate when they leave, too," he said.

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