The "Building Blocks for a Successful Downtown" project received an Excellence in Downtown Revitalization Award for "Special Project" from Oregon Main Street on October 2, 2013 during the Oregon Main Annual Conference in Astoria. The Special Project award recognizes a special one-time project or activity that positively affects the downtown revitalization effort. Accepting the award was the Astoria Downtown Historic District Association (ADHDA).
The "Building Blocks for a Successful Downtown" project began as an economic development project sparked by the Business Development Committee of the ADHDA. Early in the project, the goal was to bring property owners and business owners to a public forum and present ideas that might assist in making their businesses and properties prosperous. Ultimately, the project covered about a year and became a Downtown Vision plan that encompassed all of Astoria. Michele Reeves, an urban strategist with Civilis Consulting, was hired by the Astoria Downtown Historic District Association with the City of Astoria, the Astoria Sunday Market, Pacific Power, and Oregon Main Street as major sponsors and partners. Without these partnerships, the program would not have achieved success.
Four public meetings were conducted during an 11-month period to glean information from Astorians about different issues like direction of streets, pedestrian safety, signage, and how to get people to understand they are in a historic town. At the end of the project, the ADHDA received an 83-page document from Civilis Consulting that has been evaluated and prioritized by ADHDA, with implementation to occur in stages.
One of the first projects tackled as a result of the report was addressing the gateways. ADHDA partnered with the Astoria Parks Depart to use leftover funds from their earlier streetscape project to buy flowers and to work with a local artist to refresh the paint on the gateway sign on the east entrance. They are working on new gateway signage for the west entrance. In addition, they used their technical assistance visit from Oregon Main Street to schedule a storefront design workshop and one-on-one assistance for five businesses. One of the businesses implemented the recommendations from Frontdoor Back the same day and saw an immediate increase in foot traffic. The executive committee continues to refine the priority list and each committee has 5-7 action items to consider for next year.
"We are thrilled to present this award for the Building Blocks for a Successful Downtown," says Sheri Stuart, Oregon Main Street Coordinator. "It is a great example of a community engagement project "
The Awards Presentation was a highlight of the Oregon Main Street Conference, a popular annual conference that brings together people with an interest in downtown revitalization.