News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Anonymous donor gives gift for the holidays

Contributing writer for The Canyon Weekly

A gift from the heart has brightened downtown Mill City just in time for the holidays.

“Recently, an anonymous donor purchased Christmas decoration to adorn the new streetlights,” said Ken Cartwright, station manager/program director with KYAC Community Radio. Cartwright said the streetlights “were designed for uses with flowers, banners and other seasonal decorations, complete with weather-proof outlets to accommodate these special Christmas lights.”

Cartwright marvels at the recent upgrades to the downtown that for many years has “gone unnoticed and neglected.”

“There have been a lot of changes to this community over time and even more recently because fires, ice storms, COVID-19, loss of businesses, and a housing shortage,” he said. “Many people driving Hwy 22 fail to see or notice that there is more to Mill City than what’s seen along the highway as they pass along east or west unless they turn off the highway at the 7-Eleven store and follow the signs that say downtown Mill City.”

Cartwright said those who venture downtown will see construction everywhere as they approach Wall Street before crossing the newly renovated 1927 steel bridge that crosses the North Santiam River. The river is adjacent to the newly renovated railroad trestle bridge, now a scenic pedestrian foot bridge, he added.

“The former US Bank building on the corner of 1st Avenue and Wall Street has been undergoing construction for the past three years,” Cartwright said. The building “will soon house a microbrewery with a large restaurant, an extra rooftop seating dining area and viewing, in addition, up to five rooms on the second-floor mezzanine for overnight stays.”

Downstairs in the main lobby-entrance to the building will be the main restaurant and tap room, as well as several small retail shops.”

According to Cartwright, construction in the area of “The Mill” is happening on a new park, community restrooms, and parking for the complex with an electric vehicle charging station. 

“Work is nearly complete with new curbs, sidewalks, a covered mass transit bus stop, new LED retro gas looking streetlights, and landscaping,” he said. 

“Across the steel bridge is evidence of the changing landscape of improving the downtown area. The road just across the bridge is a Y intersection. To the left or south, on First Avenue, signs direct you to city hall, clinics, the post office, a food market, The Grill restaurant, new subdivisions and home construction. 

“At the Y at the steel bridge if you turn right, you are on SW Broadway, a newly rebuilt four-block area of old downtown Mill City,” he added. “Newly reconstructed SE Broadway, complete with new sidewalks, curbs, ADA access, bump outs for parking, crosswalks and those retro LED gas streetlights, it sparkles day and night.”

The recently completed Stewart’s Hall at the Odd Fellows ground floor is home to KYAC Community Radio, Santiam Hearts to Arts and Community Gleaners.

“There is also room for future events in addition to monthly concerts, Art Mart, and home to the Santiam Community Chorus,” he said. “These events are produced by Santiam Hearts to Arts for the community to enjoy.

“The former Mill City Pharmacy closed several years ago and was sold recently as commercial office space,” he continued. “Brenda’s Barber shop is still there as well as the library, several churches and a new record shop, RPM Records.”

Add to that the three-year project to replace the Santiam Canyon School District’s old middle and high school buildings, renovation to the elementary school building and a few other upgrades provides for growth within the district, Cartwright said. 

“It has also attracted new teachers and programs to bring our kids into the present and future with programs and skills to get them ready for their future,” he said. 

Cartwright calls the changes proof that people are proud of and want to live in Mill City. He and others hope the upgrades will draw new businesses to fill the number of commercial buildings and properties that are for sale.

“The community cares,” Cartwright said. “There is a lot of pride in our history, and efforts to save what we can and build for the future are now evident.”

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