It can start with something as simple as taking up the carpet covering beautifully-aged wood floors in a historic building or removing plaster from the façade of a downtown landmark to reveal the original brick beneath.
Sprucing up one building can inspire the owner next door to do the same, and before long, the entire block and beyond becomes – or goes back to – the lively downtown it once was. This is the premise that Michelle Reeves of Rethinking Urban Places is bringing to her downtown revitalization work in Tigard and Oregon City.
Reeves will lead initial presentations to stakeholders in the revitalization of downtown Tigard on Feb. 22 from 4 to 5 p.m. at the Tigard Area Chamber of Commerce and in Oregon City Feb. 25 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Cypress Restaurant and Bar. The program will also include subsequent tours of successfully redeveloped areas and concrete steps on how to adapt revitalization principals to fit each city.
Metro has partnered with Reeves, Oregon City and Tigard to promote making the most of what downtowns already have with efforts that lead to on-the-ground results. Through a comprehensive program of meetings and discussions with city officials, property owners, business owners and residents, Reeves is discussing the principals of revitalization and identifying how the two cities can make improvements right now.
"The market can't support building new," Reeves said. "The better way to leverage public money is by improving what you have and letting the market come in to fill other spots."
Reeves takes a market-driven, community building approach to civic renewal. She works with business and property owners to teach the building blocks of revitalization, using practical and many times low-cost approaches to revitalize city or neighborhood commercial districts.
"Everything I do is very tangible, concrete and hands-on," Reeves said. "We go from building to building, block by block and figure out 'Here's what you need to do tomorrow' to work toward your long-term goal."
Reeves says that the key is to create a shared vision and bring it to life through a set of concrete goals and action items, which can range from repairing awnings to choosing a civic theme.
Vancouver, Washington recently partnered with Reeves and it's already making changes to improve connectivity between downtown and Esther Short Park and beautify the streetscape. These are the types of changes other areas like Oregon City and Tigard are hoping to see in their downtowns.
"This project is about sustainability like nothing else is," said Oregon City downtown manager Lloyd Purdy. "We've got 166 years of urban commerce and culture we're building on and we're reusing what we've built in a sustainable way through revitalization."
Redevelopment isn't just about attracting new business either. Cities and communities included redevelopment of downtown areas in their aspirations as part of Metro's Community Investment Strategy. The strategy calls for investment by the public and private sectors to form vibrant, safe and prosperous communities. It's a path towards revitalization that cities like Oregon City and Tigard hope to follow.