Here’s why I’m excited to buy a house in Centralia

I am in the midst of the process of purchasing a home in Centralia, and it’s pretty exciting stuff. It’s exciting to be on the golden path to home ownership, taking control of my financial destiny and all that wonderful stuff, but there’s another element that is equally exciting: being a property owner in a city that is in the midst of some pretty big revitalization.

There are several reasons why now is the time to buy in the Hub City, aside from the simple fact that the real estate market is picking up incredibly quickly once again. But a plethora of factors should serve to increase the general livability and sustainability of Lewis County’s largest city, many of which will directly benefit property owners.

Here they are, in no particular order:

Long-vacant properties are being bought and renovated. The Wilson Hotel in downtown Centralia is the most notable example of this, with the adjoining annex having already been renovated and turned into luxury lofts. As I touched on in a previous post, this can only help the economic sustainability of the downtown core, which in the past had relied on bars and now antique shops to keep itself afloat. This is a sure sign the cultural center of Centralia is diversifying, and it will be great to see another hotel bring out-of-towners to our region to discover what we’re all about.

Centralia College is in the midst of a major facelift. The only college in Lewis County is growing, not just in students and programs but in footprint as well. Its campus remains tucked neatly into an area just west of downtown, but if you’ve driven through campus you’ve noticed a major change as the college has vacated a couple blocks of Washington Avenue, a previous major north-south route through town, and is building a brand-new student commons where an ancient health sciences building once stood. It’s an interesting addition and necessary as the college has added several four-year programs in recent years, part of an effort to provide affordable education to more segments of people living here in Lewis County. It’s working, too.

The Northwest Sports Hub is seeing a lot of action. A new 76,500-square foot facility that hosts a variety of indoor sports has brought a lot of people from out of town week after week, infusing cash into the local economy and ensuring hotels and motels in the area stay well-occupied. I don’t have any hard numbers, but the evidence is there in that the Harrison Avenue corridor is significantly more packed on weekends and you can walk into Safeway without really recognizing anyone except the folks you know that work there. The increased revenue, sales tax and hotel/motel tax benefits everyone as much of this money gets infused right back into the community.

A new I-5 project aims to eliminate traffic choke points. This is big. Anyone in Centralia knows how terrible traffic gets around the Harrison and Mellen interchanges with I-5 especially in the late afternoon and early evening. The project is ongoing now and it involves some serious reconfiguration of the two Centralia intersections, and while traffic still sucks now (especially on the freeway at odd times) we should probably just be patient and wait for it all to blow over. When it does I think we’ll all be the better off for it.

Got any other reasons? Disagree on any of the above points? Let me know what you think.

Yes, it’s okay to be outraged over both Cecil the Lion and Planned Parenthood

I try not to wax political or overly philosophical on here, but I can’t stay silent about a couple major issues that I’m sure you’ve seen all over the Internet lately.

There’s a lot of outrage over both Cecil the Lion being shot and Planned Parenthood selling parts of aborted fetuses. Rightly so.

Both show a blatant disregard for God’s creation, and it’s perfectly okay to be outraged over both situations. In fact, we all should be.

But here is where I believe the two situations are different: Human life is by Biblical order and mandate stands on top of the hierarchy of created life. God breathed into man and woman, making humans the first creatures on the planet. And as if that wasn’t enough, God told man to take dominion over the earth, meaning that it is up to humans to ensure its beauty and survivability.

On that “take dominion over the earth” topic, I honestly am convicted and convinced that we are not to kill for sport. Killing for food or sustenance is different, but just for the sport of it is wanton killing for no major reason that is beneficial to anyone.

Now on a weightier matter: When it comes to humans, I am convinced and convicted that the decision to end someone’s life willingly should not lie in the hands, hearts or minds of another human. This is true from conception all the way through the end of one’s natural life cycle, whenever God and this world He set in order determines that to be.

As much as I grieve over the act of abortion, I also grieve over death sentences for crimes. Punishing someone by death ends their chances of being spiritually restored to Christ.

Death is serious stuff, and it happens all too often because we do not respect God’s creation as a society.

But I say all that to say this: CHOOSE LIFE!!! Life is a gift from God, and it is only enhanced through His gift of having sent Jesus down from heaven to die for our sins. Praise God that we all have the free will to be able to accept that gift!

I continue to pray and hope that the Lord leads us all collectively into all truth and a greater understanding of the Gospel that we can use to minister to our communities, families, friends and those who need to hear His message most.

A rainy trip to Coldwater Lake

A planned group hike to Harry’s Ridge at Mount St. Helens on Saturday didn’t pan out due to weather, so we went about 1,000 feet lower to the Coldwater Lake area.

The hike became more of a glorified nature walk as we didn’t gain or lose much elevation at all over its duration, but 3.4 miles of straddling the shoreline of a relatively new lake in a mist and fog was a neat experience in and of itself, simply because the weather made the landscape look entirely different.

Here are a couple photos, and hopefully they capture the serenity and surreal feel of the day.

Fog envelops Coldwater Lake on a rainy and cool Saturday morning, making the view along the boardwalk a very hazy one.

Fog envelops Coldwater Lake on a rainy and cool Saturday morning, making the view along the boardwalk a very hazy one.

Although the clouds only lifted somewhat, the view at the lake was still gorgeous.

Although the clouds only lifted somewhat, the view at the lake was still gorgeous.

Stuff that’s gonna happen in Year 32

Year 32 of my life started at 2:23 p.m. today, and I took some time to perform a thorough self-evaluation. The attention span of the Internet is relatively short, so instead of posting all the results of that self-eval, I’m just going to share some things that you can KNOW will happen in 2015.

I will buy a house. I’m in amazing financial position to be able to do so and will shortly begin intensifying my search for a good home. Gotta pounce before home prices begin to skyrocket, so this is a priority. Probability of happening sooner rather than later is a 3 out of 5.

I will find true love. Boy, this is risky because of my overall bad luck in life at this very thing. But I think this is the year I break out of the slump and hit one out of the park. I don’t have anything to base this on, but the probability of this happening sooner than later is probably a 2.5 out of 5, which is still pretty solid and actually could increase, who knows.

I will do the STP in one day. I can never sleep the day before a big event because I get intensely keyed up, but I’m going to somehow make it happen and ride all 206 miles from Seattle to Portland in less than 20 hours of real time. Probability of this happening sooner than later is probably a 2 out of 5.

I will skydive. I hate heights, but how else do you overcome it? Jump out of a good airplane in Toledo, that’s how. I value my life, though, so the probability of this happening sooner rather than later is a 1.5 out of 5 and that is very generous.

Onward and upward.

Recapping the 2015 Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic

Cyclists gather at the start of the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic at the Husky Stadium parking lot.

Cyclists gather at the start of the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic at the Husky Stadium parking lot.

There’s so much to cover when talking about a 206-mile bicycle ride that one really doesn’t know where to begin. But I’ll try.

Last year, I took part in my first-ever Cascade Bicycle Club Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic, a large recreational ride that takes cyclists from the Northwest’s largest city to the second-largest in one or two days. I rode it on a hybrid bike last year but came back thirsty for more this time around with a proper road bike and a year of experience under my belt.

I only started cycling in 2012, so the STP has been the pinnacle of my cycling achievements. I’m not quite up to the task of doing the Tour de Blast or RAMROD yet, but that’s okay.

Anyway, if last year’s STP was awesome, this one was exceptional. Riding a 2002 Klein Quantum Race made right here in Chehalis, I finished an hour faster than in 2014. But this one was tougher…allow me to explain.

I get REALLY keyed up before a big event and always have since I was a kid. This year’s STP was no different, as I got absolutely ZERO sleep the night beforehand. My friend Rinat came up from Longview to drive me up to the starting point in Seattle, and I just threw in the towel on getting any rest and did the equivalent of shotgunning a coffee from McDonald’s before the ride. I was ready to go as I would ever be.

After some initial chaos at the starting point, I was on my way out of Husky Stadium at 6:15 a.m. and on the road. It was stop and go for a bit through some sections, but once we hit residential neighborhoods the ride was more free-flowing. I nearly crashed at mile 6 when I was forced to my right and nearly got my front wheel stuck in a pavement rut, but I was able to save it and continue. That would be the only such brush with coming anywhere close to a crash that I would encounter for the rest of the weekend.

The ride in neighborhoods next to Lake Washington was nice, if a little bit difficult only because I was already tired.

The ride in neighborhoods next to Lake Washington was nice, if a little bit difficult only because I was already tired.

The first 20 miles were tough, if for no other reason than getting no sleep the night prior and shocking my body into working hard. I got into a good flow and a good 16-17 mph pace for a bit until reaching the Puyallup hill around mile 40 or so, and after some initial difficulty on that I did well and finished without too difficult of a time after throwing it all the way into second gear and pedaling quickly.

Groove Armada, “Paris”

You said all you wanted…you just wanted to be free.

Rethinking Lewis County, Vol. 1: On the revitalization of downtown Centralia

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During my time as a reporter at The Chronicle, I was always fascinated with the continued revitalization of downtown Centralia. Though I’m not a journalist anymore, I still maintain that fascination and am eager to keep up with the goings-on there.

Downtown Centralia has seen a great deal of success in the past couple of years especially, and it just takes one drive along Tower Avenue to see what’s going on. The marquee on the Fox Theatre is a microcosm of downtown, itself being a brand-new symbol of a historic property in the middle of a giant overhaul. Further along the street, fewer and fewer vacant spaces exist and some businesses that just got on their feet a few years ago are beginning to emerge as mainstays.

It remains to be seen whether economic success is happening on a large scale, but the most promising sign is that reports of businesses in the downtown core closing are very few and far between.

That’s why I was somewhat surprised when I saw that The Station, a coffee bar in downtown Centralia, shut down abruptly the other day. Staff posted a note on the door that the recently renovated and re-branded coffee stop — I believe it was the first sit-down coffee lounge in the Twin Cities, and I don’t count Starbucks in that category — that it was closed and they thanked customers for their business.

I’m not exactly sure what caused its closure, partly because I don’t work there and also because I didn’t stop there much. Maybe it was the fact that the coffee shop market in Centralia is pretty well diversified already, and maybe it was product quality. I’m not sure, but if anything, I believe it should have been in prime position to succeed if for no other reason than its location directly across Tower Avenue from the Fox Theatre (which has become a huge draw in the past year especially with its twice-monthly movie series).

It’s interesting that I bring that up because I really have never said (and I was the business and economy reporter at the paper) in the three years I’ve lived here that any portion of downtown has been primed for any remote amount of success. The economy sucked a lot of the life out of downtown for awhile, unemployment rates skyrocketed and it was downright tough to generate any amount of money.

But three big things that have all taken place recently have turned that story around almost completely:

1. The Fox Theatre’s continued draw in terms of tickets sold, events held and general interest in the continued renovation
2. The recent sale of the Wilson Hotel and the restoration project of the hotel and annex with a pretty aggressive timeline
3. Centralia Square Ballroom & Hotel’s renovation as a hotel and wedding venue that is booked to the gills

There’s a common thread among all those: renovation. People have ponied up some serious cash because they have a vision that their projects can succeed, and they’re doing it for the right reasons: aside from the business opportunities, they’re all investing in the heart and soul of a town.

Back to the now-closed coffee bar: if someone were to come in and turn that into something unique downtown, it might take off. But it has to do one or both of two things: draw foot traffic and make enough of a profit to be sustainable. Those go without saying, for sure, but I want to expound upon the foot traffic concept briefly…

I’ve always personally noticed that places that do well and stay open might not necessarily be making a ton of money, but they’re drawing a lot of people for whatever reason. A popular example where I lived in Springfield, Missouri was an 80’s-themed arcade called 1984. They only charged $5 for someone to play all the games they wanted all evening, and it was for that reason the place was packed every time I went.

It was a great idea because the fact the place was full all the time would draw more people over to see what was going on. Activity is contagious.

I’m not saying someone should throw an 80’s-themed arcade in downtown Centralia — okay, maybe I am — but if you see my point, it would be really cool to see something become a center of cultural activity that could sustain itself.

My friend Lucy, who co-owns Santa Lucia Coffee across Locust Street with her husband Justin, chimed in on my Facebook wall the other day that she would like to see Centralia College open an extension of its library there. That fits in so well with the theme of being a hub of activity and even extends it by bringing an entirely different sector of the population downtown that otherwise might not go: young adults who otherwise wouldn’t take a second look at an antique shop or other business they might have just glanced by as they rushed past in a car.

The culture in downtown Centralia is varying, and it is interesting to note that low-income apartments and luxury lofts are within mere blocks of each other. I wouldn’t call it gentrification just yet, but even five/six years ago there were no lofts downtown. Now you are attracting a sector of the population that, hopefully, will stay downtown. But more on that point itself in a future post as I’ll explore the concept of new urbanism and how I think it could benefit Centralia.

This has been just the beginning of a bunch of unfinished thoughts and concepts I had in a reporter’s notebook as I had wanted to do somewhat of a story series on the revitalization of Centralia. I want to start a series on this blog about rethinking the culture of Lewis County’s towns as it pertains to growth, the economy and our area’s perception. This is just the start of that, and hopefully in future posts that will be coming along quite shortly we can facilitate some cool dialogue.

My next blog on this subject will pertain to some challenges downtown Centralia faces with being removed from the I-5 corridor and whether or not the new sports complex will actually be a benefit to downtown. Stay tuned.

Got any thoughts? Leave a comment and let’s talk!

My review of the movie “God’s Not Dead”

“God’s Not Dead” is on Netflix.

Please don’t watch it.

It started out really good. The Lionsgate logo and animation is top-notch, but from there it just got worse.

The message is poignant, but the plot is so far-fetched that the mall fight from Jackie Chan’s “Police Story” was more believable.

By the way, here’s that fight scene, which is much shorter than the movie and much more stirring.

Life, post-journalism: The first three weeks

I knew leaving the world of journalism after more than a decade in the business would be a big change. I just didn’t know how much of a change it would be.

Right now, I’m helping create a tourism website for Lewis County by writing and curating a bunch of content. Today was day 12 of the new job, and it feels like I’ve been a part of the team for awhile, having dove headfirst into the work. I’m still a storyteller, but more of a raconteur than a professional writer and that’s fine by me. Work involves a ton of research, and days like today fly by when I’m immersed in multiple tasks related to what we’re doing.

It’s also great to work alongside multiple people who share the same faith, and I don’t think I’ve ever worked anywhere that this has been the case. What a blessing.

Working an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift isn’t anything new, but the fact that I have not received a call or email about work or had to finish a bit of last-minute work is. It’s a nice change, and I’ve taken advantage of it by meeting up with some friends and relaxing a bit more.

What is odd is that I now pick up the newspaper to read it and I don’t know the content in advance. That’s something I’m getting used to, and that’s the biggest change: not being in the know about everything anymore. There was something exciting about being able to report breaking news when it happened or be a subject matter expert in a complex story. I do miss that from time to time, and especially so when I pick up the paper.

It’s also odd to attend meetings that I used to cover for the newspaper and be a presenter rather than a reporter. I just hope I speak as naturally as I was able to write.

Perhaps the change that I like most is the fact I can leave work and be home no more than two minutes later. It’s 1 minute 20 seconds by car, 2 minutes 24 seconds by bike and about 7 or 8 by foot. Again, it’s a tremendous blessing.

Long-term, I can see myself staying in Lewis County for awhile. That might be a laughable thought coming from a guy who hasn’t lived anywhere for more than two years since moving away from home in 2002, but this time it just might ring true.

All praise and glory is due to the Lord for his work in my life and those around me who have experienced similar blessings!

Rhodies and more are blooming in Longview

Selected shots from a trip down to Lake Sacajawea in Longview this past Saturday. All of these photos were shot on Lions Island near the intersection of Washington Way and Kessler Boulevard.

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