City details downtown revitalization funding

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PRIEST RIVER — Talk of revitalizing Priest River’s downtown dates back as far as 2004, though it was a few more years before the project got underway.

It was 2008, said Mayor Jim Martin, when a group of University of Idaho students from the landscape architecture program came in and worked with the public to get some different ideas of what the downtown revitalization might look like.

“That is kind of where it took off at that point and we started looking at their ideas and some other things,” Martin said.

Another four or five years went by and the city put together a steering committee of local residents and business owners to determine what people would want to see downtown. Architects came in and did some sketches, Martin said, and the public was queried during events such as Octoberfest and May Day sales. Then, in 2015, the final conceptual drawings were ultimately approved and the city began looking for funding. The city was awarded a block grant in 2017 from the Department of Commerce for $500,000, and this year the city was awarded $1 million through the Local Strategic Initiatives program, administered by the Local Highway Technical Assistance Council.

“That is kind of a real thumbnail sketch of how this thing has all come about, but it’s been a very, very long process,” Martin said. “So this was not something that just started a year ago, or two years ago or three years ago, it has been at least a 10-year process.”

As the city prepares to go out to bid on the project next month, the base-bid construction cost is estimated at $1,487,200, which includes the $284,100 to Frontier for underground relocation of the utility lines on High Street.

The base bid will cover High Street from just east of Wisconsin to Cedar, and Main Street from just south of Highway 2 – there is a small area at the north end of Main not included in the base bid – to just south of the dentist’s office.

There are some natural breaking points just because of the way the terrain is,” he said.

There are two alternates that could be added in depending on the bid climate, Martin said. One is the small section at the north end of Main Street that includes a waterline replacement, estimated at $117,300. The other alternative would be to add the south section of Main into the project, also with waterline replacement, at an additional $267,400.

In addition to the $1.5 million in funding from the block grant and strategic initiatives, the Priest River Urban Renewal Agency is contributing $230,220 for the project, and the city received a Local Highway Rural Investment Program grant of $87,200. The city funded $148,037, most of which has been paid out in engineering and design fees, Martin said. The total project funding is $1,965,457, though after engineering, design and construction phase services, the total funding available for construction is $1,642,057.

The bid opening is scheduled for April 4, and construction will not start until after the Fourth of July, beginning with Main Street improvements. Some of the improvements include colorful foliage and updated lighting, and expanding the sidewalks. The utility lines on High Street will not go underground until August, after the Timber Days celebration, to accommodate the parade, car show and other activities.

“The other thing that the engineers were really worried about this year, and every year, is the ground water in the downtown area,” Martin said. “With the winter that we had in February, we don’t know what that is going to look like, so we tried to push that back as far as we could.”

Martin said the project will run through July, August and September, with one block closed down at a time. Access to businesses will be maintained, and Martin said signage will be an important part of the project in directing people where they can park and how to get to the different businesses.

“The downtown revitalization is for trying to build a place that will attract more people, it is not to drive businesses out of business,” he said.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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