In Our View: Stronger Heartbeat

Private-public partnership powers revitalization of community’s core

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Downtown Vancouver’s revitalization is gaining momentum. You’re probably asking, “What? How could that happen? We don’t even know yet if and when the national economic recovery will kick in.”

True, but apparently downtown business owners and public officials are getting antsy and want a head start on that recovery. And that private-public partnership is what’s powering a more vibrant beat in the heart of Clark County. Earlier this year, skeptics counted three strikes against the area:

  1. The lingering national recession has been just as relentless in downtown Vancouver as elsewhere in the county.

  2. PeaceHealth (which is moving its corporate headquarters here from Bellevue) rejected the idea of moving into the 10-story Bank of America building downtown, opting to relocate in east Vancouver.

  3. Vancouver-based Burgerville decided to close its popular and near-historic hamburger take-out stand at Mill Plain Boulevard and C Street.

But this isn’t baseball, and after those three strikes, we’re happy to report that the hits — at least 10 of them — just keeping coming for downtown Vancouver.

  1. A minor debate over the exact location of “downtown” actually works in favor of the entire area. Some believe the point from which all revitalization flows is Esther Short Park, site of community concerts and a lush town square around which apartments and retail offerings have been built. Others argue that the real “center” of town is Main Street. Why do you think they call it Main? And the group known as Vancouver’s Downtown Association is working hard to lure Esther Short Park crowds two blocks east to Main Street. They’re doing a great job.

  2. As Cami Joner reported in a recent Columbian story, the association is promoting the city’s Clean & Safe program, which matches applicants with up to $20,000 in improvements of paint, exterior fix-ups and lighting to make entrances and walkways more inviting. The attraction to business owners is the requirement to repay only half of the low-interest loans.

  3. At C Street and Evergreen Boulevard, earlier this month the $38 million, five-story Vancouver Community Library opened, the flagship for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District.

  4. Nearby, at West 13th and C streets, Prestige Plaza — a $12 million, four-story apartment and retail complex — is scheduled to break ground this fall.

  5. Several blocks west, near Mill Plain Boulevard and Esther Street, the $14.7 million Vista Court Senior Housing project is under construction, soon to offer 76 units on four floors to senior citizens.

  6. Back at Esther Short Park, 300 city workers are expected to complete their move into the new City Hall on Sixth Street.

  7. Back to the private sector, a $1.5 million rock-climbing gym is being built at the southwest corner of West 12th and Main streets.

  8. Also on Main Street, the historic Kiggins Theatre is wrapping up its $200,000 renovation, with plans to participate in the Columbia Gorge International Film Festival, Aug. 10-14.

  9. At Ninth and Washington streets, a $700,000 renovation of a two-story building has delivered an art gallery, microbrewery, tattoo shop and a lingerie store, plus underground parking and seven upstairs apartments.

  10. Several antique stores have opened recently within five blocks of Main Street.

Congratulations to Vancouver’s Downtown Association (on three recent Saturdays, volunteers planted 101 trees to improve urban streetscapes) and other private and public partners in this continued revitalization. If you haven’t been downtown lately, give it a new look.