By Leslie Stose, Vancouver’s Downtown Association

Vancouver is the largest downtown along the mighty Columbia. We have reconnected to our river with a trail that skirts its waters and an iconic pier where people gather. We reinvented our downtown park as a playground for all, a place to celebrate, and a market for our people. We had the vision to create the Confluence Land Bridge for people to walk alongside a railroad, over a freeway, and under jets to connect our river with the vast green spaces of Fort Vancouver National Reserve. Our downtown itself is framed by tall evergreens and lush plants. We are cyclists, walkers, rollers, and runners.

America’s Pacific Northwest owes much of its character to the industriousness of downtown Vancouver. Our Vancouver’s Downtown Association (VDA) has the mission of “Keeping Downtown Vibrant” and has done just that. We recently celebrated the historic 1922 Kiggins Theatre’s centennial anniversary with a façade improvement project to enhance areas of the building that reference its history in our downtown core. VDA has plans to enrich the historic theater by refreshing the building’s frontage which will further activate the corridor’s past in conjunction with the Main Street Infrastructure Project.

Starting in 2024, our Main Street Infrastructure Project will begin. The 10 southernmost blocks of Main Street in downtown are going to undergo a large transformation. Streets will be torn up and rebuilt into a better-looking and better-feeling corridor. The project has been 30 years in the making and is a strategic investment, given that downtown is the heart of Vancouver—a level of investment not seen since 1908. To celebrate culture and identity of place, VDA works hard to make improvements where needed to promote connectivity and activation in notable areas of the district with the use of public art.

VDA has a strong emphasis on showcasing Northwest and world-renowned artists through public art. Within the last two years, VDA has added more than 30 new murals to our commercial corridors. Curating and growing a visual multicultural historic arts district experience builds and enriches the future of the arts and paints color throughout our downtown streetscapes.

Within the last 33 years, VDA has remade our downtown into a vibrant place full of people. We brought a convention center and hotels to the heart of our city to bring groups together. We adapt historic buildings for modern uses. We build new buildings where people climb. We re-lit the neon on a stunning theater. We bring art to the streets to enliven our souls. We have set an intrepid course to reimagine what our waterfront can be and are watching it transform from a place of industry to a place where people live, work, and play.

Downtown is home to the largest collection of independent businesses in southwest Washington. We are shopkeepers and chefs, bankers and brewers, stylists and students. We are volunteers, residents, neighbors, and friends. We are a wave on the street, a smile to a stranger, and a warm welcome to all. We are an authentic place with an easier pace. Our downtown is our history, our pride, and our future.

The Washington State Main Street Program is proud to partner with Vancouver’s Downtown Association to host the 2023 RevitalizeWA conference in Vancouver October 4-6. Join our mailing list for updates on registration opening, session announcements, and more!

Top of the page: Downtown Vancouver’s Main Street at night, with the “Flying Umbrellas” sculpture in the foreground and the historic Kiggins Theatre at right. Photo courtesy of Vancouver’s Downtown Association.

The Salmon Run Belltower (and glockenspiel) in Vancouver’s Esther Short Park. Photo courtesy of Be Heard Vancouver.

VDA paints vibrant crosswalks in downtown Vancouver. Photo courtesy of Vancouver’s Downtown Association.