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News / Business / Clark County Business

Vancouver’s Main Street to get a makeover

Outreach continues this summer with construction in 2024

By William Seekamp, Columbian staff writer
Published: June 13, 2023, 6:08am
3 Photos
Plans to upgrade Main Street date back to the early 1990s, but financial restrictions caused the project to be delayed.
Plans to upgrade Main Street date back to the early 1990s, but financial restrictions caused the project to be delayed. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

With the design of the Main Street Promise 60 percent complete, city officials offered a preview of the reconstruction project.

Vancouver officials and contractors unveiled renderings for a remade Main Street and solicited feedback Thursday in an open house attended by business owners, bicyclists, property owners, shoppers and other interested parties.

The project pledges to make the street’s 10 southernmost blocks, between West Fifth and West 15th streets, safer, more accessible and better connected.

Highlights of the redesign include: replacing diagonal parking with parallel parking, narrowing the roadway while extending sidewalks and setting a roadway level with the sidewalk so there are no curbs — like Esther Street by Esther Short Park.

Going curbless

The single-level street will increase mobility and make it better suited for festival-style and other street closure events, said Jason Irving, project manager for MacKay Sposito, one of the contractors.

“Long term, it will provide a lot more flexibility for the corridor as a whole,” he said.

“This is going to be different than any other street,” added Deputy Director of Economic Development Teresa Brum. “It’s a social place, and people of all abilities, from all walks of life, can mingle together.”

Design work and community outreach will continue through the summer with construction scheduled to start in early 2024.

Parking

Parking on lower Main Street is inconsistent; some blocks have it, some do not. Some parts have diagonal parking; others have parallel parking. Under the redesign, every block on Main Street will have parallel parking. There will be no net loss in parking.

This allows for enhanced storefront visibility and for wider sidewalks.

“Over the next few decades, businesses will change, properties will change, things will be redeveloped and the streetscape will provide for the best activation in the long term,” said Michael Walker, the executive director of Vancouver’s Downtown Association.

Biking

Some attendees were quick to note that the redesign did not include designated bike lanes.

Irving said that although there won’t be dedicated lanes, by slowing vehicle traffic down, bicycle riders will feel safer being in the roadway. He added that Columbia Street, two blocks to the west, has dedicated bike lanes and will function as a sort of bike arterial, moving bike traffic north and south.

Impacts

Keeping the corridor vibrant during construction is top of mind for planners and those involved.

“Sometimes people tend to shy away when there’s construction,” Irving said. “And that’s the time when those businesses need that the most.”

During construction, the city plans to host promotional events to attract people to the corridor.

Additionally, the city hired Julie Arenz to be the point person for businesses, property owners and impacted parties. Cultivating that network during the design phase creates a pathway for impacted parties with a clear path to troubleshoot potential problems during construction.

Past plans

Plans to upgrade Main Street date back to the early 1990s, but financial restrictions caused the project to be delayed.

A silver lining from the pandemic was that $10 million of the project’s funds stem from the American Rescue Plan Act, which awarded federal money to help local governments promote economic growth and stability during the pandemic. Vancouver received funds in 2021.

A project cost estimate won’t be available until the design process is close to being completed in 2024.

A final open house will be held this fall. The exact date has yet to be scheduled.

To stay updated with Main Street Promise, visit the city’s Be Heard Vancouver page to subscribe and take surveys. Questions can be directed to project groups via email at smallbusiness@cityofvancouver.us.

Community Funded Journalism logo

This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

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Columbian staff writer