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Recommendations for the First Street land include modular store, food carts, community event space

After reaching a temporary crossroads, the Newberg Downtown Coalition presented a set of options to the City Council last month on what to do with the Butler property, a piece of vacant prime real estate across First Street from City Hall.

While NDC presenters said the time is still not right for substantial development of the former brown field site, they offered up several of NDC's recommendations for temporary use of the property and asked the council for further instructions.

Among those recommendations were to construct modular units, pads for less permanent users like food carts or build some sort of temporary structure to host events – all of which would be low cost and temporary.GARY ALLEN - While the city-owned Butler property, a former car dealership and brown field, is still not ready for major development, members of the Newberg Downtown Coalition gave the City Council several recommendations last month for cheap, temporary uses until that time comes. Those recommendations include building the infrastructure for modular retail units or a collection of food carts and building a community event space.

"We're willing to put the leg work in to do it, including doing nothing," said NDC Executive Director Mike Ragsdale. "We're just looking for a little bit of guidance on what the council might like to see as the next step."

The council did not offer a cohesive direction during the presentation at the Feb. 21 work session, although some councilors noted that they would like to see more definite costs.

At the City Council work session, Steve Olson, associate city planner, led with a brief history of the property, explaining that the plot of land was once a car dealership, became a brown field the city got a grant to clean up and is now a grassy field.

"We're looking at a clean slate, basically," he said, explaining that the property is free of any use restrictions under the grant.

The NDC presenters said the approximately 10,000-sqaure-foot, city-owned property is now used most as an event space, hosting the city's farmers market, Brews & BBQ and Halloween-related events.

They agreed with consultants' opinion in creating the downtown improvement plan that the market is not right yet to develop the property into a permanent structure like a hotel, housing or retail. However, they recommended the city do something with it in order to get some economic and cultural benefit from the property.

Those recommendations included establishing modular units, small retail or food-service stands that are more permanent than food carts, creating concrete pads and infrastructure for food carts or building some sort of structure to house community events such as a covered outdoor dining and sitting area or a small stage for performances.

Olson said nothing has been done to make the field suitable for events, noting especially that the site would need substantial improvements for drainage and even more infrastructure updates to facilitate food carts, like power, water and a grease trap.

The city would ideally charge rents to try to recoup the costs of the temporary use until the site is ready for development, Ragsdale said.

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