Excellence on Main Award

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City Block Program

Awardee: Downtown Bellingham Partnership

Award: Organizational Excellence

Year: 2023

City: Bellingham

The Organizational Excellence Award is an annual award that recognizes excellence in building a strong downtown organization while achieving consensus and cooperation among stakeholder groups. The Downtown Bellingham Partnership (DBP) received the 2023 Organizational Excellence Award due to their efforts to engage downtown stakeholders through their City Block Program.

Born out of challenging post-pandemic conditions in downtown Bellingham, the City Block Program was launched in April 2022. DBP staff divided the downtown into districts, each represented by one DBP staff member and two business owners. These City Block leaders are responsible for engaging the business and property owners in their designated district—working together to care for shared spaces, organize advocacy efforts, and foster communication between participants, with the DBP, and with the city government. Through the program, new communication channels have been forged where there was previously frustration and disconnect.

District meetings typically have between 10 to 20 businesses owners and nonprofits in attendance. Each meeting starts with a reflection on the positive things they have noticed in the last month and might also include guest speakers or time to plan together. There have already been some positive tangible outcomes of the increased contact and communication, including collaboration on an advocacy campaign related to drug distribution issues, the launch of the Commercial Street Block Party series, and implementing alleyway improvements, just to name a few.

While still a new program for the Downtown Bellingham Partnership, the City Block Program is already fostering a culture of volunteerism, inclusivity, and community engagement, where the Main Street program isn’t working for—but rather with—the community to co-create downtown.