Every community has its visionaries, bellyachers and dynamos whose respective duties are dreaming, complaining and getting things done. In that third group, count Vancouver's Downtown Association.To the casual observer, VDA's most visible contributions are the seasonal flower baskets hanging throughout the downtown area, or the uniquely funky Turtle Place Park that replaced the old bus transfer station at Seventh and Main streets. But there are many other successful VDA projects in plain view and behind the scenes.
For 23 years, the association has pursued a simple mission, declared on its website (http://www.vdausa.org) as to "make good things happen in Downtown Vancouver." The game plan is simple, too. Create solutions, don't make excuses, roll up your sleeves and find ways to "strengthen our greater downtown community."
The VDA's latest great idea is to change Block 10 — the ugly sister of Esther Short Park — into a pleasant and picturesque place. Block 10 is bounded by Columbia, Washington, Eighth and Ninth streets, northeast of Esther Short Park. It's a prime location for redevelopment, pending the overdue arrival of the economic recovery. Currently, though, Block 10 is just a barren eyesore.
The VDA wants to turn Block 10 into a temporary park, deploying the association's usual combination of volunteer elbow grease, limited funding and perhaps a grant.
The Vancouver City Council approved the temporary park idea Monday night, and we think the plan is a good one for several reasons.
First, just as homes are staged for selling, dressing up Block 10 will boost its chances of being sold to a developer. The block has been mentioned for several years as a possible site for a public performing arts center. Our preference, though, would be private development, to create jobs and contribute to the tax base.
Second, Block 10 deserves a face-lift. It would be great to walk diagonally across the block, stop and admire the landscaped tree areas, bulb gardens and flag displays that the VDA envisions for the block.
Third, renovating the block would, even if just temporarily, bolster confidence in downtown revitalization, which already is accelerated by progress on the waterfront redevelopment project a few blocks southwest of Block 10.
And finally, dressing up this block would present yet another in a long series of examples from VDA on how to improve the local quality of life. This can-do spirit is what elevates local dynamos above the visionaries and the bellyachers.
The VDA, which has contributed $20,000 to the project, is looking for volunteers and donations. You can sign up for a work party at Block 10 that Washington State University alumni have organized for 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Sept. 15. We're told the WSU grads will warmly welcome Husky helpers. To sign up for the work party, or to donate or volunteer in other ways, call the VDA (360-258-1129) or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kudos, and thanks, to the VDA — Director Lee Rafferty, the board members and many volunteers — for generating one more great idea for improving downtown Vancouver.