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The Scoop - There's interest in Mt. Leo area
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It was in my business column on Sunday when I mentioned the need to make Mt. Leo look better.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who feels this way. I’ve had several folks agree with my comments in recent days, including McMinnville city administrator Nolan Ming. Nolan sent me a text to say beautifying entrances to the city, like Mt. Leo, is very much a priority and he’s met with a local nurseryman to discuss it.

Mt. Leo looking downtrodden is nothing new. I conveyed a story to Nolan about how my Cupcake and I had plans to get married at Mt. Leo Church of Christ, but decided against the idea because we believed traveling through that area would leave a bad impression on out-of-town visitors. That was 23 years ago.

So what can be done?

If you recall, our very own downtown McMinnville used to look pretty bad itself, punctuated by a huge eyesore in the middle of Court Square called The Hole. The Hole was surrounded by unsightly junkyard fence to keep pedestrians from falling into it.

On top of The Hole, many downtown storefronts decided to decorate their windows with plywood. One building next to First National Bank had plywood over its windows for so long, the plywood was decorated to make it look better.

In short, downtown was not a desirable place to be, from a business or aesthetic standpoint.

But then McMinnville’s Downtown Revitalization Project rode into town with a $5.2 million price tag. Back in 2004, that was real money.

The project was costly, but it brought with it astonishing improvements. Our downtown area regained its vibrancy and its swagger.

I can’t speak for the city’s plans, but I wonder if such a revitalization project could be done in Mt. Leo. The city could work to beautify the streets and common areas, but help would be needed from businesses to upgrade private property.

Some businesses, such as Barr’s Fine Home Furnishings and Smith Brothers Barber Shop to name two, are already well-kept and look nice. I’ll spare you the list of businesses which could use a fresh coat of paint, to say the least.

Any meaningful improvements will have to be a joint effort between the city and private property owners. If downtown property owners hadn’t stepped up their game following the $5.2 million renovation, we’d be left with nice streets and sidewalks in front of ratty buildings.

It would provide a huge incentive if the city’s PILOT program were to be emphasized to Mt. Leo property owners. 

The PILOT program works like this: If a person has a $100,000 building and makes $50,000 worth of upgrades to it, the property will continue to be taxed at the $100,000 level for a set number of years, usually 10 to 15. This offers a huge tax savings to encourage renovation and development.

With a combined effort, I'm convinced Mt. Leo could be transformed over time much like our downtown area has been.

Standard editor James Clark can be reached at 473-2191.