It is rewarding to see the amazing accomplishments of the Oregon Main Street Network communities over the past few years in breathing new life into their historic downtowns using the nationally recognized Main Street Approach® to preservation-based economic development. Main Street programs and communities have a vital role to play in ensuring that the historic preservation movement becomes more accessible, more visible, and more inclusive.
As Doug Loescher, former director of the National Main Street Center once said, they “show that historic preservation is as much about the future as the past by inviting people to step ‘behind the velvet ropes’ and ‘don’t touch’ signs to enjoy the experience of shopping and dining in historic buildings.”
There are now 50 communities participating in the Main Street Track and an additional 41 Affiliate communities striving to organize their Main Street initiatives. Each year Oregon Main Street evaluates the Performing Main Street (advanced level) communities based on ten performance standards established by the National Main Street Center and recommends for National Accreditation those who meet the standards. We’re proud to report that five of Oregon’s Performing Main Street communities achieved National Accreditation status in 2015: Albany, Astoria, Corvallis, McMinnville, and Oregon City – a record for us!
And, the results from Main Street communities in the top two tiers speak for themselves. Since 2010, there has been a total of $53,932,204 of private sector reinvestment in 719 rehab projects both large and small, $54,535,801 in public sector reinvestment, 295 net new businesses opened, and 1,995 net new jobs were created.
But, the statistics only tell part of the story. When I visit our Network communities, I am continually inspired by the energy and commitment of the volunteers and staff who give generously of their time and creativity. It is through their consistent efforts over the years that transformation is happening.
For example, at the outset of their revitalization efforts, one of the key strategies of the Port Orford Main Street Revitalization Association was to build on “the arts.” They now have 10 art galleries – many putting back into productive use existing buildings – a mural program, and activities that celebrate the arts.
In Roseburg, the downtown is really coming alive through major building renovations, new restaurant and retail clusters, and a major streetscape project is on the way.
Out-of-the-box ideas are being implemented with great success such as the “parklet” project in The Dalles that converts a couple parking places into seating areas with plantings, the NEDTalks (Novel Efforts Downtown) in Astoria, and PROJECT DISCOVERY, a grassroots, urban planning effort in Milton-Freewater.
Through it all, many building renovation projects are being completed across the state. A great example is the restoration of the façade of the IOOF building in The Dalles. Their Main Street worked with the Columbia Gateway Urban Renewal Agency, State Historic Preservation Office, and the property owner to secure funding for the project which included revealing and restoring the marble along the base of the building, repair of the brick columns, tuck-pointing, repairing and repainting of the cornice, repainting the historic IOOF sign, and revealing transom windows which had been covered.
This summer Oregon Main Street will convene conversations around downtown revitalization efforts through Regional Oregon Main Street Network meetings. We’re hosting meetings in July and August in La Grande, Cottage Grove, Bandon, and Newberg. We want to bring people together to discuss the projects and activities they are working on, their successes and challenges, and find ways to strengthen Oregon Main Street to better meet the needs of communities. And, the Oregon Main Street Conference is on the horizon on October 7-9 in The Dalles. This year’s theme is “Build Awesome Revitalization Teams,” and will feature sessions on all the ways to bring community members, local government, business and property owners together to leverage community assets and create vibrant and sustainable districts.