Excellence on Main Award

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Main Street Through a Child’s Eyes

Awardee: Discovery Elementary School & Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance

Award: Outstanding Special Project

Year: 2022

City: Gig Harbor

When the Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance received an email from a local elementary school teacher wanting to partner on a curriculum project, they answered with an emphatic yes. Thus, Main Street Through a Child’s Eyes was born.

The students spent a day downtown learning about what it takes to run a business and investigating the importance of being involved in their community. Breaking into groups, they each visited four downtown businesses that have a unique story and business model: Tickled Pink, Treasures4Humanity, Fox Island Trading Co, and the Harbor General Store. Ready with questions, the students’ curiosity and interest impressed the businesses, and the students were amazed by some of the things they learned – like that the Harbor General Store’s greatest expense was not its inventory, but its payroll. The stores were delighted to hear students say they needed to bring their parents back to the shop, and by the handmade thank you notes they each received from their visiting group.

A lunchtime presentation from the Downtown Waterfront Alliance shared more about their events and projects, and how a non-profit organization supports the community, and they received coloring pages for the Farmers’ Market that could be completed and returned for Market Money. Finally, they heard from the local environmental organization Harbor WildWatch.

Discussions are already in the works about what 2023’s Main Street Through a Child’s Eyes will look like. This partnership between the Alliance and the local school district has offered the opportunity to foster a sense of place and connection in local youths and to bring them into their downtown as passionate, active supporters, recognizing their futures as leaders, business owners, and Main Street directors in Gig Harbor.

Excellence on Main Award

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Ridgeline Lighting

Awardee: Downtown Camas Association

Award: Outstanding Special Project

Year: 2022

City: Camas

For over a decade, a committee of Downtown Camas Association (DCA) volunteers called the Light Brigade have installed and maintained roofline lighting on downtown buildings, now lining 21 buildings and serving 39 businesses. If you’ve spent an evening in downtown Camas, you know personally how this lighting contributes to their charming downtown aesthetic. It has the added bonus of increasing downtown safety at night, helping residents and visitors feel safer enjoying an evening downtown.

In July 2020, due to new code compliance issues, the fire marshal told DCA that they had ninety days to either upgrade their existing downtown lighting or have it removed. It came as quite the surprise, especially considering they had just upgraded their incandescent bulbs into energy-efficient LED bulbs in 2019 contributing to a more sustainable lighting plan – thanks to a grant from Clark Public Utilities.

The DCA Board and Light Brigade worked together with the fire marshal’s office to come up with a temporary solution and formulate a longer term plan. Still, they only had two years to find the funding, determine the best upgrade methods, choose a contractor, coordinate with property owners, and facilitate the upgrades.

The funding came first: With available funds through the Main Street Tax Credit Program increased in 2021, DCA saw unexpected donations at the end of the year – enough to fund this $50,000 project. They chose an electrical contractor and, for the first time, made formal access agreements with property owners for lighting upgrades and continued maintenance.

With Light Brigade volunteers on hand for support, the electricians upgraded all 21 buildings in only 3 days. With the City, DCA staff and volunteers, and property and business owners all working together, alongside the hired contractor, the project was an incredible success.

With a waiting list of new businesses requesting ridgeline lighting, DCA was thrilled to come in far under budget and now has funding for phase 2: lighting 5 new buildings in downtown, enhancing the façade of 11 businesses, and extending this charming lighting off of their main street to activate more of their downtown.

Excellence on Main Award

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Woodin Avenue Landing Park

Awardee: Historic Downtown Chelan Association

Award: Outstanding Special Project

Year: 2020

City: Chelan

Nestled between Campbell’s Resort and the Old Bridge was a hidden gem – public access to Lake Chelan, right off Chelan’s Main Street. Campbell’s Resort is one of the oldest and most recognizable establishments in town and the Old Bridge, another local icon, leads right to its door. This makes the location between them exceptional. And yet, underutilized.

The Woodin Avenue Landing Park is the first capital project taken on by the Historic Downtown Chelan Association. The goal of the park project was to activate this special but neglected area and in doing so create another space that connects two of Chelan’s greatest assets – its lake and its historic downtown district. In 2015, the space was unmaintained asphalt – a dumping ground for old bike racks that many assumed was part of the Campbell’s Resort private property. At least those that even noticed it hidden behind tall shrubbery. Despite its dock, the plot was almost never used by the public to launch boats or access the lake.

The HDCA Design Committee began developing plans and, with an estimated price tag of $120,000, fundraising efforts quickly followed. The vision for the park galvanized donors and within a year $50,000 had been raised. Met by a City contribution of $75,000, work began.

But then the project hit a snag. A few snags. First the slope from rock to dock turned out to be out of compliance with ADA specifications, the aging retaining wall was found to be unsound, and the new bids that were needed to address these issues came back 3x the original! The HDCA Board regrouped and approached their partners. With support from the Mayor and a strong case for the project’s impact on Chelan’s local and visitor experience, the County PUD was eager to support the new retaining wall and the City agreed to contribute additional funding.

The Woodin Avenue Landing Project, completed in May 2019, has effectively turned an unused, unsightly area of downtown into a beautiful park with highly sought-after public access to the lake. Moreover, it has made downtown Chelan a more welcoming, walkable place for all to enjoy.

Excellence on Main Award

Paving the Way to a Brighter Future

Awardee: Port Townsend Main Street Program

Award: Outstanding Special Project

Year: 2019

City: Port Townsend

Anyone who has been part of a major street rebuild knows the negative impact it can have on the district’s businesses. The general impression from locals and visitors that they “should just avoid downtown during construction” can take a dramatic toll. Port Townsend was facing their third major construction project in a ten-year span, and the Port Townsend Main Street Program knew they had to be extremely proactive in order to help their small business community survive the six-month stretch in 2018 during which Water Street, their Main Street, would be torn up.

The Main Street Program mobilized volunteers, community partners and business owners to create a multi-faceted communication and marketing strategy. Planning began a full year before the Water Street Enhancement Project broke ground by gathering input from business owners. Their requests included retail promotions, downtown greeters, a trivia game to generate foot traffic, a map and promotion of transit options. Between the City and a grant from First Federal Community Foundation, the team secured $60,000 to implement the plan that included the merchants’ ideas as well as print and online marketing, electric taxi rides free to the public, coupon books and reusable totes, historic walking tours, and more.

Yet another part of the Main Street Program’s strategic effort to support their businesses during construction was Port Townsend’s successful application to host our state conference, RevitalizeWA, which generated nearly $140,000 in local spending, a major boost during the peak of construction.

Whereas some businesses projected 40% profit loss during construction, the reality was that many businesses reported they were down only as much as 8% and some reported no losses at all during the six-month period. The district also saw four new business open and one business expansion during construction!

The campaign resulted in major relief to the small businesses and brought energy and optimism to the construction experience. Because of the new public spaces and streetscape some businesses are now reporting up to 20% increase in sales above preconstruction numbers. This was possible because people worked together to make the best of a challenging time – which has led to an even more beautiful downtown for all.

Excellence on Main Award

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Inside Out: Love Where you Live

Awardee: I Heart Yakima

Award: Outstanding Special Project

Year: 2018

City: Yakima

Inside Out is a global art project, founded by French artist JR, transforming messages of personal identity into works of art. I Heart Yakima, a nonprofit focused on community pride and engagement, decided to use the model as a means of making locals’ civic pride visible and enhancing the resident and tourist experience in downtown Yakima.

Working with photographer Sally Tonkin and the Downtown Association of Yakima, I Heart Yakima coordinated a large-scale temporary art installation in 2017. Eight photo shoots were hosted throughout June and July, attracting 167 proud Yakima residents to have their photos taken for the project. The images were then installed on an exterior wall of Ron’s Book & Binding, a downtown Yakima building owned by downtown board member Joe Mann.

The installation, which used 56 gallons of paste, totaled 2,600 square feet upon completion. The work was done by 23 volunteers, who contributed approximate 400 total hours of time. A ribbon cutting on September 12 drew a large crowd, and the project continued to build momentum through stories in local media and regular social media posts. The installation was removed on November 29, but the images live in perpetuity at www.iheartyakima.com/insideout.

The project achieved its goal of celebrating the people of Yakima and cultivate civic pride, while also activating an urban alleyway in the heart of downtown Yakima.

At the summer photo shoots, each participant was also asked to write a testimonial to their love of living in Yakima. Along with their images, their testimonies can be viewed online. One such testimony comes from 17-year-old Renee Diaz: “I’ve lived here my whole live. It’s my home, it’s who I am. And I love everything about it.” When asked why she participated in the Inside Out project, she added, “It shows our unique, beautiful, diverse community.”

Inside Out gets at the heart of Main Street: bringing people together to make greater, more diverse, and thriving places.