Excellence on Main Award

Thai House Facade Project

Awardee: Colleda Monick, Steve Weise, Roger Wilson, and Joe Mann

Award: Economic Vitality

Year: 2016

City: Yakima

As a new Washington Main Street Community, Downtown Association of Yakima wanted to show the power of Main Street by making a visual impact and investing in the downtown business community. A façade grant program was developed and a selection committee toured downtown Yakima to identify a business that would benefit from a façade enhancement.

Hidden behind an aging storefront, lacking adequate windows or visual appeal, and located on a key block at the center of the downtown district, the Thai House restaurant was unanimously selected for the pilot project. Based on recommendations from an architect, multiple improvements were made in 2015, including removing the security screen from the building, creating an outdoor seating area in an underutilized planting bed, and installing floor to ceiling windows and a glass door. Funding for this project was a 50:50 grant match between DAY and the business and property owner.  In total, over $20,000 was spent in façade improvements.

The impact of this project has been greater than anticipated and enhanced the building not only visually, but also spurred activity to the area and surrounding businesses. The Thai House is reporting over 25% increase in sales and visible increase in foot traffic near the restaurant. Since the project has been complete, 3 new businesses have opened within a 100 feet of the business.

The success of the Thai House façade project has spurred DAY to develop a long-term façade grant program that is now open to downtown businesses and property owners who desire to make improvements to the façade of their buildings. DAY intends to do 2-4 projects a year based on demand.

Excellence on Main Award

Rain Garden

Awardee: Lorinda Kay and Fred Lindahl

Award: Sustainable Future

Year: 2016

City: Langley

A 2014 remodel of Second Street, a key corridor in downtown Langley, included the installation of the city’s first rain garden. The Langley Main Street Association designed and planted all of the bump-out features of the new streetscape, except the 600’ rain garden, which was designed and planted by a contractor due to the technical requirements.

Rain gardens work like a native forest by capturing and infiltrating polluted runoff from rooftops, driveways, and other hard surfaces. Rain gardens can help reduce water pollution and prevent flooding in the Puget Sound.

After a year, it became evident that the Second Street rain garden had failed. The plants became too big, wilted and folded over under their own weight making the area look like an out-of-control lawn. Water from the street ran along the curb and exited without circulating through the garden. The city approved the redesign plan by the Main Street Association and agreed to cover the new plant costs.

A new plan was designed by Main Street Association intern Emily Martin, a horticulture graduate from the University of Oregon. A rocky channel for better water flow was created to meander through the middle of the garden to guide the water throughout the bed. New plants were added with a greater variety of size, color and fragrance.

With record rainfall this winter, the rain garden was put to the test and passed with flying colors – water channels throughout the garden area now and filters through the direct and sand with no flooding occurring. Residents and merchants are happy with the new design, which adds interesting character, plants, and better functionality.

The Langley Main Street Association plans to make the rain garden a center piece educational tool explaining the importance of the rain garden in filtering street runoff such as heavy metals, gas and oil, before it enters the sound. This will be a pilot project to encourage and educate building owners on storm water run-off and ways to filter and clean water before it enters the storm system and the sea.

Excellence on Main Award

Buskers in the ‘Burg

Awardee: Carolyn Honeycutt and Linda Schantz

Award: Outstanding Promotional Event

Year: 2016

City: Ellensburg

In 2011, the EDA hosted its first Ellensburg Fallfest, a new downtown event that embraced the arts, including street performers. After just one year, the term “busker” made its way into common Ellensburg vernacular and the festival was renamed Buskers in the ‘Burg! In five short years it has grown from a small, one day event to a two-day festival featuring performers from all across the country.

That first year, an artist named Brian Kooser applied to be a busker at the festival. While performing, he wore a giant handmade puppet and was an immediate hit at the new event. The following year the EDA commissioned Kooser to create more puppets with the goal of incorporating a parade into the festival. At the 2012 event, after months of preparation, Kooser and other EDA volunteers stunned festival attendees by wandering through the event dressed in larger-than-life puppet costumes. Each year since, the puppets have gotten more creative and the parade has grown larger.

The impact of Buskers in the Berg has been significant for the downtown business community. In 2015, an estimated 2,000 people participated in the festival. Over 450 children and their families signed up to participated in the kids’ activities that are a highlight of the event. Many downtown merchants boast high sales numbers during the festival, and credit that success to not just number of attendees, by the layout of the event. With 25 buskers and other acts stationed on sidewalks throughout the district, there are plenty of reasons for festival attendees to explore, dine and shop in downtown Ellensburg.

The EDA now draws musicians, aerial artists, magicians, and other performers from all over the country, while still providing a venue for many local musicians and artists to promote their talents. An additional stage was recently added specifically to accommodate local dance groups.

Ellensburg Downtown Association has taken a fun idea and turned it into an unforgettable festival that continues to grow and adapt.

Excellence on Main Award

Meet Me Downtown

Awardee: Linda Haglund and Steph Grubich

Award: Outstanding Special Project

Year: 2016

City: Wenatchee

When the Wenatchee Downtown Association learned that the City was planning a major infrastructure improvement project for summer 2014, they knew they would have to pull resources together to support the downtown business community during the inevitable disruption. Out of this need came the concept of a campaign that would put a face to the locally-owned businesses that populate downtown Wenatchee.

The Meet Me Downtown campaign ran for 24 months, from January 2014 thru December 2015. Each month, a different downtown business owner was spotlighted with an ad printed in a local publication and shared online. The ads included a picture of the business owner(s), a brief profile that included aspirations for investing in downtown Wenatchee, and an invitation to visit the business. The business owners were given 50 souvenir Meet Me Downtown shopping bags to give away during the month they were featured by the campaign.

The Meet Me Downtown campaign helped people connect with businesses in a new way and created a greater sense of place. By telling the stories of the business owners themselves –  people like Peggy Nichols, Kyle Hendrickson, and Pete and Sarah Lolos – the Meet Me Downtown campaign effectively created a personal connection and further reason for community members to support a vibrant local economy by choosing to shop at local downtown businesses.

Excellence on Main Award

Finholm’s Market

Awardee: Mary DesMarais, Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance Executive Director

Award: Visual Impact

Year: 2016

City: Gig Harbor

In 2013, during the University of Washington Storefront Studio Project, the Finholm District of Gig Harbor’s downtown waterfront was identified as having the “potential to be a bustling neighborhood commercial district engaging both sides of the street.” In the final project report, several options were recommended for updating the exterior of the Finholm’s Market, an anchor building in the district. As it sat, there was a worn and faded mural across the main stucco wall of the structure, and non-working neon signage.

Following recommendations from a Washington State Department of Archaeology & History Preservation building assessment in early 2015, property owners Monte & Teddi Hester repainted building surfaces, refurbished the building’s neon sign, and commissioned local artists to paint a mural on the building. Improvements cost approximately $250,000, a worthy investment for the Hesters, who have longstanding ties to the building. Teddi’s father, John Finholm, was the former building owner and founded the Finholm Market in 1935.

The Hesters wanted the new building mural to celebrate the history of the Finholm district and the Finholm family. Finding inspiration from a historic photograph of the market, artists Lita Dawn Ancich and Bob Henry created a sepia toned painting featuring John Finholm and his brother Edward with their original delivery truck.

This project improved the overall appearance of the Finholm district and has helped the history of the building re-emerge with the painting of the historical mural. Market owners say the exterior improvements have made a huge difference for their business.

Excellence on Main Award

Town & Country

Awardee: Jerri Lane, Bainbridge Island Downtown Association Executive Director

Award: Entrepreneur of the Year

Year: 2016

City: Bainbridge Island

Town & Country Market, which opened its doors on Bainbridge Island in 1957, recently underwent a major, 14-month remodel to transform it into a larger, updated and renewed market with improved layout and flow, increased seating, and many new features.

Owner Larry Nakata, a lifelong Bainbridge Island resident, knew the old structure needed extensive work. A study showed him that it would be far less expensive to construct a new building outside of the central business district, but Nakata recognized that losing the market, a long-time downtown anchor, would deal a heavy blow to the community core.

The $15 million renovation includes an enhanced entrance, improved parking, reconfigured floor plan, an expansive Culinary Resource kiosk for demonstrations and samples, touchstone kiosks with access to recipes and videos, and new equipment. Much of the work centered on modernization and sustainability – energy efficient lighting, healing and cooling systems, and solar panels, among other improvements. After the project was completed in 2015, Town & Country Market was awarded LEED® Gold from the US Green Building Council for the achievements in the building and operation of this downtown fixture.

Town & Country Market has long been a destination on Winslow Way in downtown Bainbridge Island, helping to make the community a more livable, healthy place. Larry and his crew have taken their commitment to the community a huge step further by choosing to re-invest their downtown building and adapt the business to new trends and customer demands.

Excellence on Main Award

Port Townsend 30th Anniversary

Awardee: Mari Mullen and Amy Smith Howard

Award: Outstanding Special Project

Year: 2016

City: Port Townsend

The Port Townsend Main Street Program was founded in 1985 as one of the first five pilot Main Street programs in Washington State. With thirty years and countless economic, design, and promotional successes under their belt, the Main Street Program board rolled out multiple projects and celebrations in 2015.

From a declaration from city council proclaiming August 30th “Main Street Day” to gathering hundreds of citizens in front of an historic building downtown to take a “family portrait”, it was a very visible and memorable year for the program.

In 2015, the Main Street Program coordinated 26 successful events, sold out their Insiders’ Building Tours, launched a “Look Here First” campaign, attracted new sponsors, collaborated with many partners, and accomplished many other organizational goals.

The board of directors and other volunteers stepped up tremendously to put the spotlight on the program in 2015. Thirty volunteers came together to host “Celebrate Main Street”, a cornerstone anniversary event that included the Family Portrait Town Photo and an “al fresco” picnic dinner on Taylor Street. The photo included 752 people, seven dogs, and a seagull. The dinner was attended by over 200 guests, some of whom had been involved with the program since its inception, and others – such as PTMSP’s first Executive Director, David Kahley – who made a special trip back to Port Townsend to celebrate the program’s anniversary.

For a program with a thirty year track record of significant contributions to the community, the Port Townsend Main Street Program’s year of impact and celebration set the bar high for creativity and volunteer commitment. Congratulations and cheers to the next thirty years!

Excellence on Main Award

Rory Turner

Award: Excellence on Main Award

Year: 2016

City: Ellensburg

The Elks Building was an important part of downtown Ellensburg since 1933, but after the Elks Club disbanded in the early 2000s, the building fell into a state of disrepair and many in Ellensburg believed the building was not worth saving.

In 2014, a Central Washington University alumnus and Wenatchee resident named Rory Turner, recognizing the value to the community and purchased the building.

Rory is no novice in the world of historic property renovation; he and wife Laurel have been investing in Wenatchee’s downtown for years – properties include the Exchange Building, Wenatchee Hotel and the Dore Building. Laurel serves on the Wenatchee Downtown Association board of directors and chairs the organization’s Economic Vitality committee. Rory is currently the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce board president and was recently elected Port of Chelan County Commissioner. Despite numerous community commitments, the Turners still find time to engage in lasting change for Wenatchee’s historic downtown properties. They have been instrumental in working with the city to identify barriers and opportunities to the viability of property renovations, particularly those that add housing units to upper floors downtown and provide spaces for small start-up businesses.

In Ellensburg, the life Rory and his team have breathed into the Elks Building has spurred new businesses and new investment in nearby historic properties. Since the purchase in 2014, the Elks building has recruited three tenants, with more interested as spaces become available. The upstairs is currently being renovated to include a huge ballroom which will be available as a rentable event space.

Rory’s passion for historic preservation and for downtown has transformed significant Central Washington buildings back into viable properties and sources of great community pride. His attention to detail and preservation ethic are prevalent in everything he does, from selecting fixtures that complement the historic building to going the extra mile to involve the community in a project. We are honored to recognize Rory’s impact on Wenatchee, Ellensburg, and the entire state of Washington with the Excellence on Main Award.

Excellence on Main Award

Wenatchee Downtown Association

Awardee: Steph Grubich and Linda Haglund

Award: Organizational Excellence

Year: 2016

City: Wenatchee

The Wenatchee Downtown Association has fully embraced an important principle of any successful downtown revitalization strategy: partnerships!

One such partnership is with the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce. In 2014, the two organizations established a joint membership program and a scholarship program that allows a new business to become a member of both organizations at no cost their first year in business. New businesses also have opportunities to be connected with an experienced business owner through the joint mentorship program. By working together, rather than competing, the WDA and Chamber are offering important services to local entrepreneurs.

Downtown Wenatchee is now a brighter place thanks to a partnership forged between the WDA and the City of Wenatchee to update downtown’s aging street lights. The WDA and the City joined forces to purchase 114 new LED lights for downtown, which has created a warmer, safer, and more appealing commercial district.

Community partnerships have resulted in several other successes for WDA in recent years. By connecting with a local elementary school, the WDA engaged students in an art competition, asking them to draw images depicting their favorite things about downtown Wenatchee.  Sixteen of these images were turned into beloved new “Why I Love Downtown” banners now hanging prominently along Wenatchee Avenue.

The business community’s support of WDA is clearly evidenced by the high turnout and contagious enthusiasm found at their Annual Dinner. WDA’s annual celebration includes the awarding of “Downtown’s Best”, which recognizing locally-owned businesses. The awards are highly valued by the business owners, in part because the community at large is invited to cast their vote.

Executive Director Linda Haglund puts it best, as only she can: “We are the heart of this community…I dare you to come downtown and not feel that.”

Excellence on Main Award

Camas & Journey

Awardee: Ellen Scott of Journey Community Church, and Caroline Mercury, Dawn White, and Carrie Schulstad of Downtown Camas Association

Award: Community Partnership

Year: 2016

City: Camas

When the Downtown Camas Association learned in 2009 that a key property was to be converted to a church, they were, at first, apprehensive. Journey Community Church’s location in downtown Camas is a marked exception to the logic that churches don’t belong downtown, due in large part to the incredible partnership Journey and the DCA have forged over the last six years.

The building Journey purchased was once the JC Penney department store. The building had fallen into disrepair and required a great deal of investment by the time Journey hired a local architect to bring the building back to life. Valuing the history of the building, great efforts were made to preserve the original brick and wooden beams, and repurpose other historic materials. The multimillion dollar renovation was completed in late 2009 with a great deal of volunteer labor from congregation members invested in the new space.

DCA’s partnership with Journey makes year-round, free community events feasible in downtown Camas by providing a large venue during poor weather, volunteers to help run promotions, and activities for children. Events like Girls’ Night Out, Camas Car Show, Plant & Garden Fair, and even DCA’s Annual Awards Dinner rely on the unique community space. At the annual Spring Clean-Up and Planting Day, Journey provides not only lunch for 50-75 volunteers, but also recruits congregation members and their children to serve their community.

In addition to events, Journey has impacted commerce and activity downtown. Using their public art fee required with all downtown improvements at their level, Journey worked with DCA to provide 8 locally made artful bike racks through downtown. When the church purchased the building next door, which had two vacant storefronts, they turned down multiple applicants as they waited for tenants that would add to a vibrant business mix downtown, knowing that DCA’s recruitment goals focused on restaurants and retail. Today, these storefronts house two successful businesses – a bakery and a dance studio – that bring people downtown at all hours of the day.

Excellence on Main Award

Waterfront Walking Tours

Awardee: Josh Sherwin, Rahna Lovrovich, and Lindsey Johnson

Award: Outstanding Promotional Event

Year: 2016

City: Gig Harbor

In 2015, the Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance initiated a new event designed to reclaim hidden history, build civic pride, and encourage economic vitality. The guided Waterfront Walking Tours of the downtown waterfront were free and open to the public. Targeting visitors and locals alike, the tours introduced participants to a “behind the scenes” view of the community and spurred interest in future explorations and patronage of the downtown business community.

A two-hour guided walking tour of the downtown waterfront was offered every Saturday throughout the summer. An average of 20 people participated in each tour, with a total over more than 300 attendees over the course of the Gig Harbor’ Waterfront Walking Tour’s first season in 2015.

The 1.3 mile informative tour offered a general overview of Gig Harbor history and wildlife along the downtown waterfront.

The Alliance partnered with two local non-profits – Harbor WildWatch (a marine and environmental education organization) and Harbor History Museum (a regional maritime and history museum) – to design content and lead tours. The final scrip incorporated history, natural history, and even a little local folklore. Each tour had two guides, one of whom was a wildlife expert.

The impact of the walking tours on the community is significant. The Alliance worked with local hotels to promote the tours to visitors, and encouraged all attendees to round out their tour with lunch at a nearby downtown restaurant. Attendees reported extremely positive reactions to the tours, and the Alliance is confident that positive word of mouth about the historic downtown waterfront district will be a long-term benefit of the tours, which they plan to continue and expand upon in future years.