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News Release
Independence and Salem Receive Excellence on Main Awards - 10/07/21

SALEM — Oregon Main Street announced its 2021 “Excellence on Main” award winners today and released videos of all the recipients. A total of twenty-one businesses, projects, partners, and people were recognized. Three of those recognized were from Independence and Salem based on nominations submitted by the City of Independence and the Independence Downtown Association, and the City of Salem Economic Development Department and the Salem Main Street Association. Videos of the following award winners can be found here.

Independence

  • One of two Outstanding Public-Private Partnership awards went to the City of Independence and the Independence Downtown Association. The Independence Downtown Association and City of Independence have been collaborators for many years, solidifying the relationship the past 3-4 years. Recognizing the positive direction of downtown Independence and the need for paid staff to continue the momentum, IDA partnered with the City to fund an Americorps RARE position. Based on the success of this in growing IDA’s organizational capacity, the City established a permanent Downtown Manager position and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with IDA. In addition to coordinating downtown event and promotional activities with IDA, the new Downtown Manager dedicates ten hours a week to continue strengthening IDA and to implementing projects. This has increased the quality and professionalism of downtown events and promotions, as well as better communication and coordination with downtown businesses. In addition, IDA’s president, the downtown manager, and city staff frequently collaborate and participate in the Polk County Tourism Alliance, IndyIdeaHub entrepreneurship program, and other local and regional efforts. This close relationship has developed a highly responsive and flexible network for responding to opportunities. The importance of the IDA/City partnership only became clearer during the COVID crisis. The downtown manager worked collaboratively with the City and IDA to engage local business owners and to understand their needs. As a result, the partnership developed and promoted a variety of creative promotions intended to boost sales, including a mother's day gift guide and facebook raffles for people who posted meals they carried out from local restaurants. And, the downtown manager worked with IDA and other partners to promote grant and technical assistance programs which supported 60 local businesses. The partnership between the City and IDA is a replicable model anywhere that has a functioning main street organization and a city government that understands the value of a vibrant main street.

 

  • Volunteers on Main award: Kate Schwarzler was one of six volunteers recognized for her volunteer efforts. Kate came to Independence six years ago to spend some time with her parents before relocating to Portland. Instead of moving to Portland, she chose to add her expertise to the growing community and opened a coworking space in downtown Independence. Kate has led the Independence Downtown Association toward becoming a more professional organization, reflecting on activities and seeking improvement, and developing a consistent brand identity and marketing for events. She has helped the organization get past a mentality of scarcity and make proactive choices about whether an undertaking is a community benefit or a fundraiser. Most of all, Kate has provided stability for an organization that needed to grow, but had a hard time getting out of first gear. While there is still plenty of work left to do, IDA is a significantly stronger and more effective organization for her tireless efforts.

Salem

  • Outstanding Civic Project went to the Gray-Belle building in downtown Salem. The Gray-Belle has had a storied history of food establishments beginning in 1907 with a confectionery and more recently by a string of Chinese restaurants over the course of the past 30 years. By 2015, the building sat vacant with an oddly unusable upper floor that was accessible only by ladder. In stepped Charles Weathers who purchased the building in 2017 and began a two-year renovation of the building using the Secretary of Interior Standards. The building now contains a food hall, the first of its kind in Salem, with a collection of seven new, small, locally-developed restaurant concepts. And, the upper floor now has five apartments which were immediately rented upon completion. The basement is also home to two new businesses. This rehabilitation project layered numerous financial incentives to make it viable. The property owner received $360,000 in Federal Historic Tax Credits, the City of Salem Capital Improvement Grant totaled $300,000, and the EPA paid for an environmental study in the amount of $25,000. The Gray-Belle building is also taking advantage of Oregon's Special Assessment Program. Total investment in the project was about $3.2 million. The Salem Main Street Association assisted with this project by connecting the property owner with City staff for grant assistance and marketing and social media promotions. This project is a fantastic example of revitalizing a vacant historic building in a downtown area where a willing property owner took his vision and made it a reality.

Oregon Main Street’s Excellence on Main Awards were created in 2010 to recognize the efforts of those who work day-in and day-out to revitalize Oregon’s historic downtowns and traditional commercial neighborhoods. 13 other towns in Oregon were honored with awards this year. 

 “2020 was a particularly challenging year on Main Street,” said Sheri Stuart, state coordinator, Oregon Main Street.  “Our main street communities demonstrated amazing resiliency, working tirelessly to support, encourage, and nurture the people, businesses, and property owners in their communities. These awards recognize the outstanding efforts of local programs in creating and supporting projects and activities that exemplify Oregon Main Street’s mission to build equitable, livable, and sustainable communities that will grow Oregon’s economy while maintaining a sense of place.”

The wide range of awards is reflective of the comprehensive Main Street Approach™ to downtown revitalization developed by the National Main Street Center. This model is used by the communities participating in the three-tier Main Street Track of Oregon Main Street Network. From 2010 to 2020, communities participating in the Performing Main Street and Transforming Downtown levels – the top two tiers – have seen $125 million in private building improvement projects, $124.6 million in public projects, 1,347 private rehab projects, 639 net new businesses, 163 business expansions, 126 business acquisitions, and 3,961 net new jobs. In addition, 250,348 hours of volunteer time has been contributed to local main street organizations in the top tiers.

Oregon Main Street is part of Oregon Heritage, a division of Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. For additional information, visit www.oregonmainstreet.org.

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