Celebrating Main Street Network Growth
November 28, 2022 | 1:40 pm
from Washington Trust
There will be more folks at the Washington State Main Street Program table in the new year!
Starting January 1, 2023, our network will have two new designated Main Street Communities, LaCrosse and Renton, and three new Affiliates: Auburn, Eatonville, and Ilwaco. These five revitalization efforts underscore the Main Street Approach is adaptable enough to work in very different places—from the shorelines of the Peninsula to the rolling hills of the Palouse and in big cities to towns small enough that everyone is your neighbor. The Main Street Approach is effective in a diversity of towns and cities because it builds on the distinctive sense of place unique to each, with historic downtowns at the heart of economic and community development.
Congratulations New Communities
Following selection committee recommendations, Renton Downtown Partnership and LaCrosse Community Pride join the ranks of other organizations actively using the Main Street Approach to energize downtown spaces, small businesses, and community identity through engagement and resourcefulness.
Renton is just southeast of Seattle, one of a handful of Washington Main Streets with a population over 100,000, and home to Renton Downtown Partnership (RDP) which formed in 2014 when business and property owners, residents, non-profit organizations, community activists, and representatives from the Chamber of Commerce and the City of Renton got together to start an organization to focus on revitalizing Renton’s downtown core. Since then, the RDP has created and run programs to cultivate their century-old downtown into a unique, vibrant, and diverse commercial center. Recently the organization made the leap to hiring a full-time executive director to bring greater strategic coordination to their growing projects and events. Upon learning their program would be a designated Community in 2023, RDP Executive Director Christian Switzer marked the news by celebrating the milestone and keeping focus on the future. “The exciting work of an organized Main Street is ahead as we work to build the downtown core into a thriving district,” said Switzer.
Across the state in Whitman County, another revitalization effort had taken root in LaCrosse, a town of just over 300 people. In 2011, after the previous closure of key businesses, a grassroots effort to revitalize led to the creation of LaCrosse Community Pride (LCP) and a host of impressive projects. Dedicated volunteer leaders took ownership of Main Street—at times literally—by recruiting the Bank of Eastern Washington to open a branch in the historic corner bank building; developing a coalition of services including a library branch, community gathering space, and market for groceries in their historic mercantile; enticing new industry to town like Bainbridge Manufacturing, which makes plastic hardware components; and even the restoration of their historic rock houses which will soon operate as short-stay accommodations and welcome their first guests this holiday season! LCP was an inaugural Affiliate Capacity Building Grant Program awardee which allowed them to hire their first paid staff, hailed by the LCP board for catalyzing greater efficiency and use of the Main Street Approach. Sarah Kane, the new Executive Director, said, “Becoming a Main Street Community will expedite our vision of a vibrant downtown LaCrosse and allow us to take important steps towards strengthening our current businesses while encouraging new entrepreneurs to join our downtown community.”
Welcome New Affiliates
Joining our network in 2023 as Affiliates are the Auburn Downtown Cooperative, South Pierce County Historical Society in Eatonville, and the City of Ilwaco’s Downtown Revitalization Committee. Auburn is a city of almost 90,000 nestled between Kent and Sumner, both current Main Street Communities. Eatonville is a town of nearly 3,000 with a historic commercial district just one block off the highway that leads to Mount Rainier National Park. Ilwaco is a town of just under 1,000 people on the Long Beach Peninsula whose closest neighbor is Astoria, Oregon, across the state line. We are excited to welcome and work with these downtown enthusiasts as they strengthen the hearts of their communities as Affiliates.
Affiliates are towns and organizations exploring how the Main Street Approach can serve as the guide in meeting their revitalization goals. For Auburn Downtown Cooperative, which is an independent nonprofit whose mission is to strengthen and promote the downtown area as Auburn’s social, cultural, and economic center, joining the Washington State Main Street Program will be another step toward using the Main Street Approach to organize their growth and learn more best practices from their peers. For Eatonville and Ilwaco, joining the network at the very beginning of establishing a revitalization effort with interested community members means they can avoid reinventing the wheel—the Main Street Approach becomes their scaffold for building projects and programs to strengthen their historic cores under a comprehensive strategy.
Using local resources and initiative, the Washington State Main Street Program helps our network of 69 towns and cities develop their own strategies to stimulate long-term economic growth and civic pride. We provide access to information, support the capacity of local downtown revitalization leaders, and offer guidance to individuals and organizations interested in downtown revitalization. To learn more about Washington Main Street, visit preservewa.org/programs/mainstreet.