Imagine a town with trees growing out of the sidewalk and flower baskets hanging from the streetlights. A place where people will bring their families on a Saturday afternoon to walk through the local businesses. Thanks to Pathways to Progress, this idea will be coming to Cheney within the next few years.
Pathways to Progress was established in 1998 to provide broad-based citizen input in the development and revitalization of Cheney’s historic downtown area, and to bring the Cheney and EWU communities closer together.
According to Pathways to Progress’s website, the downtown core currently is loaded with problems. There is a lot of vacancies downtown. The few businesses that do exist here suffer due to a lack of pedestrian traffic. Also, many of these businesses are not the type of business that a downtown normally consists of (especially not a college town). Many of the buildings downtown are in poor condition,but are loaded with potential.
Dr. Dick Winchell from the Department of Urban Planning and Public Health Administration says that Cheney has “tremendous potential” and that this project, is moving fast.
In four years, many groups have come together to raise money (the Cheney community raising over 100,000 dollars) and apply for various grants, as well as come up with a plan to assure success.
So far, 25 classes, 14 faculty members, and 600 students have participated.
“I’ve been amazed with how many people that have participated,” said Winchell
Ruth Jordan, one of the main supporters of this project, says that this will be a “turn around summer” for Cheney and that this city is a “sleeping giant” full of potential.
Some improvements Pathways is considering are: a new bicycle path running from the city limits all the way to campus, various trees and bushes planted downtown, hanging flower pots, brick crosswalks, more outdoor sitting areas, and renovated storefronts in the years to come.
Pathways is following a “main street model” a model that has been used in 1,200 cities in 40 states across the U.S. and has been used to revitalize historic parts of Portland as well as Port Angeles, Wash., located on the Olympic Peninsula.
According to the Pathways to Progress brochure, the “Main Street Approach” is, “a philosophy, a program, and a proven comprehensive approach to downtown commercial district revitalization.”
Pathways to Progress Program Director Pat Malone got the downtown business owners together Tuesday night to explain to warm them up to the upcoming changes
“We wanted to give business owenrs a look at other downtown revitalizations and to have them get out and meet other business owners,” Malone said.
He also explained that a lot of these businesses are privately owned so the owners get in at 7 a.m. and close up shop at about 6 p.m., and not a lot have a chance to get out and meet other owners.
The next meeting will be May 28.
One way to encourage students from going into Spokane, one idea being considered is allowing students to use their Eagle Cards as currency all over Cheney, which will be more convenient and it will help local businesses prosper at the same time.
The current parking situation will also be overhauled. Meters will be put on streets and various lots open to commuting students. A shuttle system is also being considered for transportation to and from parking lots, and all around the campus.
Pathways’ main objective is to bring the Cheney and Eastern Washington University communities together so students, residents, and businesses all benefit. Cheney is well on it’s way to becoming a real college town, instead of just being a town with a college in it.