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From Brewpubs to Pop-Ups: Making OR Cities Even Cooler

PHOTO: Astoria's Liberty Theatre is a gem of vintage restoration, and the site of this week's Oregon Main Street Conference on reviving downtown areas. Photo credit: Sara Absher, on 'astoriaoregondailyphoto@blogspot.com'
PHOTO: Astoria's Liberty Theatre is a gem of vintage restoration, and the site of this week's Oregon Main Street Conference on reviving downtown areas. Photo credit: Sara Absher, on 'astoriaoregondailyphoto@blogspot.com'
September 30, 2013

ASTORIA, Ore. - For many Oregon towns, taking the time to rethink and revitalize their downtown areas is paying off. This week, about 200 people from around the state will be in Astoria, learning from specialists about how to plan and finance these projects.

The Oregon Main Street Annual Conference theme is "Cool Cities - Old Buildings, New Attitudes." Sheri Stuart, who coordinates the program, said making a tired downtown area "cool" again often starts with refurbishing its older buildings.

"Bringing back some of that historic character then adds some vibrancy to the streetscape. It kind of has this spillover effect, in terms of encouraging other people to fix up their buildings and aids in business retention and recruitment," Stuart said.

The conference runs from Wednesday to Friday, Oct. 2-4, in Astoria. Oregon Main Street is part of the state Parks and Recreation Department, and is now working with about 80 communities on the design and technical aspects of downtown revival. Stuart noted that includes helping them organize their plans and find funding, or figuring out what types of businesses a downtown could use to boost its economic base.

At the conference, they'll be talking about some of the trends in revitalizing an area, including adding brewpubs and businesses known as "pop-up" retailers, she said.

"A pop-up might be an art gallery - really, any different types of businesses that can fill those vacant spaces in a downtown on a temporary basis," she explained. "It's kind of a testing ground for entrepreneurs to try out their business ideas, and some turn into long-term businesses."

She cited Dayton and Oregon City as good examples of towns with ambitious, multi-year plans to breathe new life into their downtown blocks. Dayton has completed six of eight projects and attracted several new businesses, and Oregon City has focused on inviting creative talent, such as artists and software designers, to populate its historic downtown area.

Information about the conference is available at www.oregonheritage.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR