Veneta 2.0: 'We're literally creating our downtown'

Veneta 2.0:  'We're literally creating our downtown'

VENETA, Ore. - For 30 years, Kathy Fox has worked Kelly's Hardware Store - and she still doesn't know where "downtown" is in Veneta.

"Where is downtown?" she laughs. "I think a lot of people equate the West Lake center over here as downtown. I don't if it's in the Veneta City limits or not."

A project to build a central commercial district off Highway 126 might make the answer to the question "Where is downtown?" a little less vague.

"Really, many business owners that come looking at us to re-locate a business don't really feel like there's much of a community here," said Ric Ingham, the city's administrator. "First and foremost, we want to be identified as having some town center that they can identify with."

The effort to re-develop West Broadway in Veneta starts with construction of four new streets and a pedestrian/bike path, complete with water and sewer service, paid for by urban renewal funds and grants.

Before the end of the year, those improvements and a new transit center should be ready.

The goal: to create more of a "there" to help Veneta stand out.

"It's part of that transition from having a bedroom community, where you don't relate as a town on your own, your just a side of Eugene," said Tabitha Eck, co-owner of Our Daily Bread. "So having a downtown gives you that center of community."

So where's "there" in Veneta?

Before construction started, residents were surveyed to find out where the downtown was in the Fern Ridge community.

Turns out most people thought it was north of 126 by Ray's Food Place.

But after construction's complete city officials hope the new "hub" is on Broadway.

"We continue to prime ourselves to be a better community for re-locating businesses and or industrial operations into Veneta and we're going to be aggressive with that," Ingham said.

It's an effort Eck thinks will pay off.

"After the timber industry died, we went through this period of not knowing who we are and where we were going to find monies to continue a community," she said, "and we're slowly developing into that tourism town."

A downtown could help give Veneta its own identity, in the hope that "if you build it, they will come".

"We're transitioning into having a personality of our own and a community of our own," Eck said. "So I think we're literally creating our downtown, not reforming or finding it."