Cottage Grove tries to save historic Village Green

Nestled in the heart of the Willamette Valley lies the small town of Cottage Grove.

However small Cottage Grove is, the town of just under 10,000 residents has felt the effects of the economy just like the rest of the country.

A perfect example is the potential selling of Village Green Resort and Gardens.

Village Green has a long history as the first five-star hotel ever built in the state of Oregon. But now, the resort is having problems making profit.

The hotel did receive some good news in mid-March. The latest offer to buy the resort was dropped - at least for now. The bidder wanted to tear down the hotel in order to build a truck stop.There are many reasons as to why the Village Green is struggling, as a reflection of the state and national economy.

"The local economy does not really drive the success of the Village Green," says Richard Meyers, the City Manager of Cottage Grove, "[it's] really based on bringing outsiders into the facility for stays."

Cottage Grove is known as a town with a lot of history and attractions for visitors, as well as residents. It's known as the "Covered Bridge Capital of Oregon" and has also received the All-America City Award twice, in 1968 and in 2004.

Like many small towns in Oregon and across the United States, bringing people and tourists into Cottage Grove is a major part of its local economy, including helping local business owners.

The Village Green, meanwhile, opened in the 1960's but was bought and renovated in 2001 under owner Dirk Winter. The hotel also added 14 acres of gardens.

But the people at Village Green and Meyers himself admit that the tourism industry has declined greatly since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, the same year Winter bought the resort.

Right now, the city of Cottage Grove and its leaders are trying to find a way to finance the Village Green, through a package that would help renovate parts of the hotel, while eliminating risk for local investors.

The community has also stepped up in support of Village Green, and wants it to stay, because they say that it brings in business for local shops, restaurants, and attractions.

"It brings people to Cottage Grove, period," says Hal Hartzell, owner of Kalapuya Books in Cottage Grove, "Which is good for our economy, and has been for many, many years."

Many of the local businesses along Main Street in downtown Cottage Grove have signs on their windows or in their shops, with the phrase "Save Our Village Green" in big letters.

Meyers knows, however, that some people in the town don't completely agree with what the city is doing.

"There are some that have real concerns and don't see any need to assist," Meyers says.

But there is also a large range of people who want to help.

"The expressions of support for the [Village] Green are coming from a wide variety of interests and individuals... across different businesses, philosophies, and political interests," says Meyers.