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Historical Possibilities - Urban Renewal and the Future of McMinnville

Dec 15, 2016

Historical photo of Third Street provided by the McMinnville Downtown Association

When William T. Newby founded McMinnville, Oregon in 1855 it is unlikely that he could have predicted the thriving community that would be found here today. With advanced manufacturing, successful small businesses, eclectic food and wine, and a community who genuinely cares, the residents of McMinnville cannot help but feel that this town is special. At the center of it all is our historic downtown, or more specifically, Third Street.

In an article by, Third Street is described as being “where the 1800s meets the 21st Century.” The article goes on to state “the foundation of all the events and attractions is the historic buildings and long-term businesses that make the downtown the center of commerce that it is.” While it’s no secret that the residents of McMinnville love and perhaps even flaunt Third Street, this stretch of town was not always the hub of activity it is today.

Photo of Third Street today, courtesy of the McMinnville Downtown Association

According to the Historic Mac website, in 1986 downtown McMinnville had a vacancy rate of 17%. Today, with the help of the McMinnville Downtown Association, the vacancy rate has dropped to 3%. This figure becomes more impressive when you learn the national average is 11%. Third Street was able to become McMinnville’s towncenter and remain economically viable thanks to a commitment of different organizations to continually improve the area. Business leaders and property owners shared in the vision of what the street could one day become.

The same effort, care, and stewardship that has gone into improving Third Street is currently being put forth in the urban renewal district. Upon seeing the success that championing the efforts on Third Street has created, the City of McMinnville became stewards in creating a plan for different areas of McMinnville, allowing the Urban Renewal Plan and Report to be created.  

Urban renewal is a program in which a state allows a concentrated use of tax revenues to be used to enhance an area in a city. The enhancements can take form in property renovations, street improvements, developing utilities, and more. The purpose of urban renewal is to promote economic development by creating an area in which more businesses, housing, and community organizations can be developed to help promote fiscal vitality.

Plans for urban renewal in McMinnville, courtesy of the City of McMinnville

McMinnville’s urban renewal plan encompasses a large portion of downtown and extends up through the Granary District, along Alpine Avenue and up Lafayette Avenue. While Third Street’s urban renewal plans are mainly aesthetic, the improvements for Alpine Avenue, along Fifth Street, and around the Granary District are designed to revamp the area to encourage building and renovation of residential and commercial zones.

Many locations within the urban renewal zone are steeped with history. Take the already established winery, Elizabeth Chambers Cellar. The building where the winery is now located was constructed in 1926 and housed the city’s power plant until 1978, followed by the municipal electric operational center offices. The building was later converted into a tasting room and winery in the late 1980s. Though the interior was renovated, the exterior of the building remains the original bricks, creating a connection to the past as visitors drink wine and look out of large windows.

A photo from the outside of Elizabeth Chambers Cellar

Along Alpine Avenue, properties and land are in the prime location to be part of a cultural and economic community as improvements are planned for 2017. Walking down the street currently, you will see old homes which were originally used as starter homes in the 1920-30’s for new families. You will see thriving wineries such as Remy Wines and Eyrie Vineyards as well as an award winning pilsner at Heater Allen. But the main element Alpine currently offers is opportunity.

 Photo of improvement plan for Alpine Avenue provided by City of McMinnville

One such opportunity that sits along Alpine comes in the form of the old Huberd Shoe Grease Building. Located at 1145 Lafayette Ave NE, McMinnville, OR, this building is rich with history and good bones. Built in the 1920’s, the building is misleading in its outside appearance. Originally built as two separate buildings, once inside you are able to see the front wooden structure was connected with a large metal timber frame to form the back. The front offers four levels including a basement while the back features 24 ft tall ceilings and an exposed timber frame. The history of the building and what it has been used for is not certain. With different features such as large vats which look as though they were used for brining, large fans that could have been used to dry nuts, and a draining system on the floors of every level of the building, there is history within the four walls on Lafayette Avenue.

Photos taken inside and outside the Huberd Shoe Grease Building

Places along Alpine Avenue like Huberd Shoe Grease will require renovation. But more than that, they will require an imagination to see the possibilities that collaboration and partnerships could provide. Luckily, resources such as the Facade Improvement Grant Program have been dedicated within urban renewal to assist in new ventures.

Urban renewal in McMinnville offers an opportunity. An opportunity to expand on the success that McMinnville has with our critically acclaimed Downtown and create a new zone of economic vitality and development. The City of McMinnville and the Planning Department already have plans in action to develop the areas listed in the urban renewal zone. With development already happening outside the MEDP office window, it seems that real change will be here sooner than you may think.

To learn more about urban renewal, please contact Heather Richard, Planning Director at

To learn more about the Huberd Shoe Grease building, please contact Mike Morris at and click here.






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