Urban strategist Michele Reeves says one of the measures of a successful downtown district is having a real parking problem but she says trying to solve a parking problem that doesn't exist yet can lead to an under-performing downtown. Reeves was addressing a crowd that gathered for a public meeting at the Columbia River Maritime Museum called by the Astoria Downtown Historic District Association to give Reeves the opportunity to talk about how she is approaching a detailed study of Astoria and it's downtown core.
Reeves starts with her fundamental belief that successful down towns are those that encourage people to get out of their cars and walk. She says "walkability" drives more business and therefore more dollars for the downtown businesses as a whole. She says you know you are successful in revitalization when customers come to a district to shop, or to eat not necessarily knowing exactly which shop they will browse or which restaurant they will try. They just come because they know that there are great choices in a walkable, attractive environment created by the downtown district.
Reeves says that she is looking at the entire city and not just a few downtown blocks to determine an effective set of recommendations she will deliver to the ADHDA and those who are participating in the study. She is thinking about what people see when they enter Astoria coming off the Youngs Bay Bridge or via highway 30 from the east end of town. She is including the impact of the Port of Astoria, the residential neighborhoods and different business zones in the city.
Part of this process will include an examination of the street grid system. The reason for that, says Reeves, is often towns with one way street systems miss opportunities for business because those systems tend to confuse tourists who rarely think to loop back to visit an interesting looking business when it's on a street going the wrong way. She says visitors can get frustrated if they accidentally turn the wrong way or have to go out of their way an uncomfortable distance in a place they are not familiar with driving.
Reeves is working with the city community development department as well to determine which city codes might need an update to reflect modern taste in things like signage, sidewalk uses, and outdoor displays of any kind.
The study goes for about a three month period after which Reeves will submit a final report with specific recommendations. Following that ADHDA will be working with The Oregon Main Street Program on implementation of the recommendations.