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Keep the focus on Gresham revitalization

Downtown Gresham has a lot going for it - a historic setting, pleasant atmosphere and an eclectic business mix. Given that success story, we're glad to hear efforts have never stopped toward making the downtown core even better.

Michele Reeves, an urban strategist working with Metro, led representatives of Gresham's downtown business district on a tour of the resurrected Mississippi Avenue business district in North Portland on July 27.

A stroll along Mississippi Avenue puts it into perspective: Customers, customers, customers on sidewalks that never seem empty. By contrast, in the past Mississippi Avenue's once famous community hub was a pay phone used by drug dealers and prostitutes in front of a grocery store.

Gresham's downtown core doesn't compare - in any way - with what Mississippi Avenue looked like before its transformation. But it's also fair to say Gresham's downtown has fallen behind Mississippi Avenue in terms of vibrancy.

It's not too late to catch up.

Reeves knows what it takes to transform a rough-cut diamond (Gresham) into a shiny jewel. So we hope Gresham business and property owners take Reeves's message to heart - not personally - when she reminds them that paint comes in colors other than beige and chairs work just as well outdoors as they do indoors.

For all downtown Gresham has going for it, Reeves' message really comes down to this: If you want to make your business district thrive, then make it visible and appealing with vibrant colors, lighting, activity on the sidewalks and utilize outdoor spaces for dining.

Two people hear her loud and clear.

Cliff Kohler opted to paint his Gentry Building in downtown Gresham bright colors instead of three-shades of boring brown after attending Reeve's' workshop on downtown revitalization. With the paint drying this week, one of Kohler's four tenants - Selma Khoury, owner of Selma's Mediterranean-style deli and bakery - is making plans to put tables outside and to liven-up her restaurant's interior and menu. Good for her.

The transformation that Reeves talks about isn't fast or easy, and it always comes down to money. But it's an investment that can pay great rewards. So, where's the paint can? How about something in a nice blue for a change?