Sisters Revitalizing Downtown with Entrepreneurial Spirit

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Sisters_1by_Rick_SchaferIn the midst of national financial uncertainty, a new $4.5 million downtown revitalization is set to launch in the fall of 2012 in Sisters, which will completely transform the downtown area.  The Cascade Avenue Streetscape project will include rethemed street benches, drinking fountains, light fixtures, sidewalk treatments and new landscaping and trees all for the safety, accessibility beauty and economy of the downtown business region.  The style proposed will be a modernized 1880’s western decor and feel.

“People are going to be really amazed how this is all going to improve the look and feel of downtown,” said Pauline Hardie, Sisters community development director.  “It will reinvigorate and revitalize the area and attract both people and businesses.  It was important to involve the community with their input, it’s their town and we want to know how they want it to look and feel.”

Sisters Compliments Surrounding Nature, Beauty & Resources

Somewhere just south of Heaven and west of the Cascade lies the mountain hamlet of Sisters, framed by a panoramic sky and embraced by the trio of peaks commonly known as Faith, Hope and Charity.  It’s home to a diverse and vibrant community, welcoming and mesmerizing visitors from around the world  with its ponderosa pines, rodeo stars, kaleidoscope of quilts and serenade of seasons.

Sisters is bound by an appreciation of the surrounding natural beauty and the resources and responsibility it brings in its stewardship of the land, more than 1.6 million acres of National Forest.  Well-tended trails, campsites and protected green zones dot the landscape.

Families have flocked to this western gem from all walks of life, creating a high quality of existence for its citizens, young and old, honoring the spirit of its youth with an arts driven education steeped in athletic endeavors and respecting its veterans and elders by providing a sense of belonging and fellowship among the many festivals and fairs throughout the calendar year.  

From signature events like the Sisters Rodeo – The Biggest Little Show in the World, the Sisters Stampede Mountain Bike Race, the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show and the musical bonanza of the Sisters Folk Festival with its bounty of fundraising programs and classes, there is never a dull moment in Sisters County.   Recreational opportunities abound, whether your taste is flyfishing, golf, cycling, camping, hiking, bird watching, horseback riding or just swaying in a hammock under a starlit sky.    

ENTREPRENEURIAL STREAK
An entrepreneurial streak runs through its vibrant shopping culture and art galleries like the nearby swift-flowing trout streams.  Salute the rearing bronze stallion at the gateway to downtown, take in a Hollywood movie at the vintage red barn of Sisters Movie House or absorb some live bluegrass and a micro-roast coffee, the experiences are limited only by your time and imagination.
Dining and lodging choices for visitors and residents span every taste imaginable, with world class amenities such as the FivePine Lodge and Conference Center and rustic charm of Black Butte Ranch.
Recent challenging economic times have forced Sisters to diversify and rebrand itself as it grapples with the nagging issues of unemployment, slow growth and an anemic housing market.   But its pioneer spirit will endure and even in this lull in prosperity, Sisters has found ways to stay afloat and remain vital.  New businesses in town like Ohana Hawaiian Plate Lunch, Melvin’s Fir Street Market, Los Agaves Mexican Grill, Takoda’s and Wild Mountain fruitstand are testaments to the optimism that prevails.

REVITALIZATION
In the midst of national financial uncertainty, a new $4.5 million downtown revitalization  is set to launch in the fall of 2012 which will completely transform the downtown area.  The Cascade Avenue Streetscape project will include rethemed street benches, drinking fountains, light fixtures, sidewalk treatments and new landscaping and trees all for the safety, accessibility beauty and economy of the downtown business region.  The style proposed will be a modernized 1880’s western decor and feel.

“People are going to be really amazed how this is all going to improve the look and feel of downtown,” said Pauline Hardie, Sisters community development director.  “It will reinvigorate and revitalize the area and attract both people and businesses.  It was important to involve the community with their input, it’s their town and we want to know how they want it to look and feel.  Their opinions matter.”

Plans are to widen all downtown sidewalks from their current 4-6 feet width to 8 feet wide.  A sizeable portion of the monies spent will go toward “vertical landscaping,” to include all foliage, benches, trash receptacles and bike stands.  The major dollars will go toward paving and sidewalks.  Funding for the project has come from state and federal grants to develop alternative cityscapes, such as the Transportation Enhancement Grant and other potential contributions from a Federal Public Lands Grant and ODOT “flex” funding to complete the entire makeover.  

One controversial aspect of the improvements will be the necessity of diagonal “back-in” parking along Main Avenue due to the installation of a designated bike lane.

DISTINCTIVE EVENTS
Erin Borla, executive director of Sisters Area Chamber Of Commerce stresses the importance of distinctive annual events to draw people over the Santiam Pass and all points beyond… and keep them coming back.

“When people complain about traffic delays and the inconvenience posed by Rodeo Weekend or the Outdoor Quilt Show Saturday, they need to remember how much revenue that brings to our town and how it benefits Sisters residents and merchants,” said Borla.   “For Quilt Show, you’re looking at a $1.2 million impact to our economy in a matter of hours.   That sort of infusion can’t be understated.  It’s what keeps us alive and what makes us Sisters.  We’re known for so many things, and memorable events are only a component.”

Borla believes these activities and festivals are much more than about having a good time, they attract visitors to Sisters, exposing them to our lifestyle, hospitality and the unique appeal of our town.

“Our Transient Room Tax, a major indicator of the health of Sisters’ tourism, has been trending upwards month over month and holding steady,” she said.  “When people are having to make tough decisions with high gas prices  and limited vacation funds, we’re glad they are still choosing Sisters.”

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