(Daimler test track facility which is undergoing expansion as part of flurry of recent economic activity in Madras | Photo by Cascade Business News)
Madras has seen dynamic growth and change on several fronts over the last 12 months, with City-backed projects promising to spur even more progress through 2019 and beyond.
Like many other communities throughout Oregon, Madras has faced numerous challenges over housing supply, particularly in the affordable category.
To address this issue, the Madras City Council recently approved an extensive Housing Action Plan — developed with substantial input from developers, businesses, nonprofits and the community — incorporating incentives designed to promote healthy growth for housing for all income levels.
One of the tacks is the concept of a significant reduction in Systems Development Charges for each housing type, with the Community Development and Public Works departments partnering in an effort to ensure the future needs of the City are met, while incentivizing current activity regarding housebuilding.
The City is also studying the concept of an Urban Renewal District that would redirect property taxes from new housing construction to help buy down the cost of additional housing for all income levels, with an emphasis on workforce housing.
Other projects related to the housing sector include the development of critical infrastructure, such as the sewer project just completed in the Bel-Air/Herzberg Heights neighborhood. Public Works made strenuous efforts to obtain grant funds to assist with this project and help homeowners find financial assistance to link up to the service.
City leaders hail this type of infrastructure work as helping increase property values, and more similar larger projects are planned for this year.
Downtown is also seeing a resurgence of new businesses, expansion of existing businesses and a new Downtown Association that is hosting events such as First Thursday, Trick or Treat and Holiday Tree events.
These efforts have resulted in less vacant spaces in downtown buildings and more dining and shopping options for the community. A core group of business owners is working diligently to enhance the urban hub, and their efforts are being bolstered through groups such as the Madras Redevelopment Commission, Chamber of Commerce, the Community Grant Fund and City departments across the board.
Commercial and industrial oriented business and development has seen vibrant activity in recent history, and in addition to the many businesses that have opened in the last 12 months, several have also expanded, with more on the horizon.
On the industrial front, highlights include Daimler Trucks North America beginning construction on the third phase of improvements (to include a welcome addition to the Madras Dragstrip) and new building additions are slated for Pratum and Sierra Case Parts.
In other areas, lots are being remediated in locations the local community has long sought to see change occur — such as the old “Rock Shop” on Highway 26 and the Masonic Building on Fifth Street.
Regarding the city’s Airport, in addition to landing an Urban Growth Boundary expansion and annexation of approximately 1,175 acres, grant funding matches have seen the start of reconstruction of the taxiway and storm water improvements being undertaken.
These are both part of the Airport Master Plan update. Having a prime working airport, combined with places to stay, eat and play, is seen an asset that helps to improve the economics in all other areas of the Madras community.
Work has also been aggressively carried out on building greenspaces and outdoor experiences throughout the community and developing a Parks and Open Spaces Master Plan, with extensive input from the community.
Through generous donations from the community and several grants, one big addition that will be in place this summer is Spray Park. Other improvements include Crescent Park getting new playground equipment and several upgrades planned for an expanding trail system.
City Administrator Gus Burril said, “Our recent progress on several fronts shows the results of a continued effort collectively, not just between City departments but also with other municipalities and the private sector, with a real focus on building up the downtown area and economy in general along with an aggressive housing plan.
“It is all good stimulating economic growth but if you don’t have a plan to house people it can defeat the object.
“To some extent there was a lesson learned during the solar eclipse when we realized what could be achieved if we worked together toward a common purpose.
“There has been a kind of cross-pollenization along several fronts in stimulating activity and bringing in seed money. Then we piggybacked on our Citizens’ Input Survey and gathered data about what people wanted to see in their community, which has also informed our plans.
“We have seen a great downtown core of businesses come together with creative ideas and energy to help build momentum in that area. There are new businesses coming in, together with existing operators expanding and remodeling, and if you drive through Madras city center today you will see how much progress has been made.
“To help businesses grow and bring in employees we knew we needed more housing options and we now have an excellent housing action plan which is seeing progress in that area.
“We have also successfully partnered with the county and state to obtain grants for parks and transportation projects and put a real emphasis on streamlining communication and processes between the city and county to provide end users with a better experience, including through matching up code language.
“Madras now has a lot of strategic policy in place to position us to accommodate further growth, including housing looking at an upward trend. Other areas may have hit price point peaks and people are looking elsewhere for opportunities, particularly in outlying areas.
“We have seen a lot of progress made in the last 12 to 18 months and will see even more through this year and beyond.”
Burril added that to keep such momentum going, the city needed “strategists, visionaries and leaders who are interested in helping create a vibrant, responsive community where residents can thrive and grow”.
Anyone interested in serving on one of the various committees, commissions or boards assisting in that direction, can visit the city’s website at ci.madras.or.us and click on the “Get Involved” link.
Burril also said that feedback was welcomed at City Council meetings, with dates and agendas posted on the same website.