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News / Clark County News

Downtown Camas revitalization earns recognition in national contest

By Kelly Moyer, Camas-Washougal Post-Record
Published: October 12, 2023, 5:16pm

Efforts to revitalize downtown Camas may earn the community and downtown boosters national recognition as the “Great American Main Street.”

The Downtown Camas Association is one of eight semifinalists announced for Main Street America’s 2024 competition for top honors in preservation-based commercial district revitalization, according to an announcement from the association.

On its website, Main Street America said the Downtown Camas Association has led the city through “a mill town renaissance,” reducing downtown vacancy rates from 60 percent in 2009 to less than 1 percent today.

It said the association is “deeply committed to the unique history and aesthetic characteristics that make (the) community special and showcase that pride with walking tours, trivia activities, public art projects, interpretive panels and more.”

A jury of community and economic development and historic preservation professionals selected the semifinalists. Finalists will receive a promotional video, media support and profiles on the Main Street America website. The national organization will announce the winners on May 6, 2024, at the 2024 Main Street Now Conference in Birmingham, Ala.

“We are thrilled and grateful that the Downtown Camas Association, its volunteers, our amazing downtown businesses, city partners and liaisons have been acknowledged nationally for our revitalization work,” Sarah Laughlin, the association’s board president, stated in the news release. “We look forward to sharing more about Camas and our Columbia River region and learning about other incredible Main Street towns around the country.”

Other contenders for the award include groups in Denison, Texas; Lansing, Mich.; Macon, Ga.; Madison, Ind.; Monroeville, Ala.; Mount Vernon, Iowa; and New Bern, N.C.

Main Street America’s chief program officer, Matt Wagner, said the award is “the highest honor” granted to organizations within the national group’s network. He said all eight of the semifinalists have “incredible accomplishments in transforming their downtowns through innovative programs strategically designed to preserve their unique heritage, foster economic vitality and create a welcoming atmosphere.”

According to Main Street America, the eight semifinalists have generated more than $1.48 billion in local reinvestment, helped open 881 new businesses, facilitated the creation of 3,827 new jobs, catalyzed the rehabilitation of 2,164 historic buildings and leveraged 306,986 volunteer hours.