Spring sprucing in store for downtown Walla Walla

Gum removal, painting and power washing are on the list for work to refresh Main Street and its side streets from Fourth Avenue to Palouse Street.

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WALLA WALLA -- A cleaner, fresher downtown is in the works in the first major beautification overhaul in almost two decades.

The Downtown Walla Walla Foundation and city of Walla Walla have embarked on a joint downtown beautification project to spruce up everything from sidewalks and light poles to benches and bike racks.

The coordinated effort, which has already started with twilight street sweeping, will be carried out by volunteers, city staff and professional painters, said Elio Agostini, executive director of the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation.

Though downtown fixtures and sidewalks have been the target of community service cleanup efforts from employee and volunteer groups such as Windermere or The Moms Network, there has been no coordinated effort to refresh downtown since property owners funded a mega infrastructure update through a Local Improvement District about 18 years ago, Agostini said.

He said those initial efforts didn't include a plan for regular maintenance. Consequently, the paint is a little faded and the sidewalks have become caked with bubblegum.

Agostini said downtown foundation representatives have been meeting with city officials for several months to plan the cleanup efforts. Members of the Downtown Beautification Committee include Agostini, Walla Walla Parks and Recreation Director Jim Dumont, Walla Walla Development Services Director Kim Lyonnais, Walla Walla Public Works Director Craig Sivley and Jennifer Northam, events and public relations manager for the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation. Agostini and Dumont presented the project to the City Council at two separate work sessions. The project has been supported by City Manager Nabiel Shawa.

"Downtown Walla Walla is absolutely the gem of our Valley, and after 18 years, deserves a little elbow grease and polish so it can really shine," Shawa said in a prepared statement.

The project area runs along Main Street between Fourth Avenue and Palouse Street, as well as the side streets along that stretch.

Agostini said the city is leading the competitive bidding process for painters. The project will include fresh paint on 112 light poles, 23 benches, 32 trash cans and 23 bike racks.

One of the most tedious tasks will be removal of gum from the sidewalks. Over time, the gum has taken on the appearance of black tar stains, he said. That work will need to be done before crews can power wash the sidewalks. The sidewalk cleaning is expected to take place mid-March with painting to follow in April.

Flower baskets are expected to be hung the first week of May.

The work may prove to be a prelude to the creation of a second Local Improvement District for work on Alder Street.

The topic was broached last year but was postponed. Agostini said downtown officials have not abandoned the idea.

He said more outreach is expected with property owners with the hope of extending the same improvements that were made on Main Street.

"All the things that have made Main Street so beautiful we want to do on Alder," Agostini said.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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