Group hopes to learn from other cities about how to revitalize Main Street

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - A group of Tigard leaders, downtown Tigard business owners and property owners were in Oregon City last week to see how its downtown survived and flourished. The city and Downtown Tigard Alliance hopes to bring a new spark to Main StreetA group of downtown Tigard businesses and property owners are taking notes from other cities as they work to revitalize downtown.

Last week, members of the Tigard Downtown Alliance boarded a bus for Oregon City, to take a walking tour of its downtown core. The group of businesses and property owners and community leaders spent the day in the downtown, learning about what made the heart of its town so successful.

“It was the chance to see what a downtown can aspire to be and learn some do’s and don’ts for downtown revitalization,” said Tigard’s Economic Development Manager Lloyd Purdy.

Purdy, who worked as executive director of Oregon City’s downtown group, Main StreetĀ Oregon City, from 2009 to 2013, said the tour gave them the chance to see what hard work can accomplish.

“They learned what it takes in terms of investment from property owners, and what businesses owners need to do to activate their storefronts and sidewalks,” Purdy said. “It was a chance for community leaders to see the role that the public and private sector can play in downtown revitalization.”

Downtown Oregon City has a lot in common with downtown Tigard, Purdy said.

Both are commuter neighborhoods for Portland, Purdy said, and both have state highways that pass near downtown (Tigard has Highway 99W, Oregon City has Highway 99E).

Both have a government agency as an anchor that generates non-retail activity. Tigard’s Post Office is a major draw of traffic to downtown, while Oregon City is home to the Clackamas County Circuit Court.

“Obviously, there are differences,” Purday said. “Oregon City is stuck between the river and McLoughlin Promenade. They have challenges we don’t have.”

The trip is the latest in a series of projects the Tigard Downtown Alliance has for downtown. The group last week also launched an art walk in participating businesses along Southwest Main Street.

Downtown Oregon City has grown a lot in the past five years, Purdy said.

Oregon City was able to turn things around because it was able to get property owners to invest several million dollars to improve their properties, he added.

“There was public investment as well,” Purdy said. “Oregon City survived and flourished during a streetscape project, much like what we are undergoing with Main Street, now.”

The most important thing is to get the right businesses into downtown, Purdy said.

“If you can change the way property owners are filling their spaces, away from offices and into restaurants and retail, that’s what downtowns are good for: Incubating entrepreneurs.”

City planners are working to bring more apartments to downtown as well, Purdy said.

“When more people live closer to downtown, it becomes a neighborhood,” he said.

But none of that advancement can be done without the downtown community, Purdy said.

“It’s about downtown stakeholders taking control of their destiny and saying what they want to help guide this downtown,” Purdy said. “In this case, its residents who are business and property owners who aspire to something better for this downtown.”

Tigard is off to a good start, Purdy said, with businesses such as Max’s Fanno Creek Brew Pub, Jeffrey Allen and Symposium Coffee moving into Tigard in the past several years.

In Oregon City, Purdy worked for a group of property and business owners dedicated to bringing more business — and shoppers — to downtown.

Purdy said the Tigard group can learn a lot by seeing what worked in other communities.

“I’d like to see TDA do something like this on an annual basis,” he said.