Touring Main Street

Economic development event highlights Camas, Washougal business districts

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Washougal Mayor Molly Coston (center) talks about downtown Washougal from Reflection Plaza, July 13, during the Columbia River Economic Development Council's Main Street Day. Tour participants also visited downtown Camas, Vancouver, Ridgefield, La Center and Battle Ground.

Camas and Washougal were recently included in an all-day bus tour that transported representatives from the Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC), the Vancouver Downtown Association, the ports of Vancouver and Ridgefield and several cities around Clark County.

Approximately 30 people rode a C-TRAN bus, starting in downtown Vancouver, as part of the CREDC’s Main Street Day tour, July 13. After Vancouver, the next stops were made in Ridgefield, La Center and Battle Ground to highlight area parks, businesses and future economic opportunities in the downtown areas.

CREDC Director of Communications Monica Santos-Pinacho said the overall message of the day was that strong partnerships and collaboration will continue to be the key to success.

During the ride from Battle Ground to Washougal, Camas native Brad Richardson, executive director of the Clark County History Museum, talked about the history of Clark County.

Washougal Mayor Molly Coston and Washougal City Councilmember Paul Greenlee greeted the tour participants when they arrived at Reflection Plaza, in downtown Washougal.

Coston said she wants more retail businesses in the downtown core, and she hopes a new Washougal Community Library will be built on a vacant lot, previously occupied by a First Interstate Bank building, at 1625 Main St., Washougal. The mixed-use project, proposed by Lone Wolf Development, could include a library, apartments and restaurants.

Coston said Reflection Plaza, located at 1703 Main St., has become a focal point in downtown Washougal, as the site of nine events, including the Washougal Art Festival, Pirates in the Plaza, Washougal Oktoberfest, Pumpkin Harvest Festival and Christmas tree lighting.

The mayor said she enjoys watching children interact with the bronze sculpture of Seaman, the Newfoundland that accompanied Lewis and Clark on their journey from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean and back. Coston also referred to another example of public art in the downtown core — a painting by Travis London of draft horses pulling logs on the exterior of the Bigfoot Inn.

The mayor said there are a lot of millenials moving to Washougal, because rents are still “comparably reasonable.”

“We are bounded by two rivers,” Coston said. “With the Columbia scenic gorge, you can go fishing, hiking, kayaking and biking within just minutes of your home, so who wouldn’t like that?”

She also talked about the importance of city of Washougal representatives collaborating with city of Camas and Port of Camas-Washougal officials.

“Our council and mayor need to be speaking with one voice and moving things forward,” Coston said. “That’s been problematic. Some years ago, that was more of a problem. We want developers to come in and say we see a solid leadership team here in this city, and this is where we want to be.”

The bus tour participants had an opportunity to walk along the 1700, 1800 and 1900 blocks of Main Street, as the president of the Downtown Washougal Association, Heena Dwivedy, talked about the businesses that are located in the buildings they were passing by.

Dwivedy said a few days later that representatives of each area that participated in the bus tour talked about their cities with pride and affection.

“It was just great to meet the folks dedicating themselves to revitalize their downtown areas and encourage economic growth, while keeping the heart of the small town feel and all building up our communities,” she said. “I made some new friendships and am excited to see how we can work more together.”

When the CREDC bus tour stopped in downtown Camas, the visitors sampled beer at Grains of Wrath Brewing on Northeast Fifth Avenue and then visited the Georgia-Pacific paper mill interpretive center.

Richardson, a 2000 Camas High School graduate, wrote about the Northwest paper industry as part of his thesis while earning a master’s degree in public history from Portland State University.

Downtown Camas Association (DCA) Executive Director Carrie Schulstad talked about how a JcPenney store and then Dodge City Bar & Grill used to be located in the building now owned and occupied by Journey Community Church.

Schulstad referred to Camas Antiques as one of “our anchor businesses,” with more than 60 vendors selling goods in the 1924 building, and she mentioned that Lily Atelier is celebrating its 15th year in downtown Camas.

“Considering our downtown is relatively small, we have diversity in what we offer,” Schulstad said. “We’ve got soap. We’ve got high end ladies fashion. We have more affordable fashion. We’ve got shoes. We’ve got so many different things, cupcakes, all sorts of things.”

“It really is worth taking a day and exploring everything, because there is something in every nook and cranny. Olive oil and vinegar, we’ve got it all.”

Outside the Liberty Theatre, Schulstad made sure visitors saw “Millie,” the bronze statue created by Georgia Gerber.

DCA Board President Caroline Mercury said merchants can give visitors brochures that show parking options for the public in downtown Camas.

As the regional representatives made their way to the fountain at Northeast Fourth and Cedar Street, Schulstad talked about how local residents had indicated in surveys that they wanted a brewpub in downtown Camas and then Mill City Brew Werks opened in 2013.

She pointed out the historic Camas Hotel, built in 1911 and renovated in 2009.

“It is the oldest commercial building in downtown (Camas),” Schulstad said. “The European boutique style hotel has 23 rooms.”

She also pointed out the Camas Public Library is located downtown. Mercury referred to the expansion of businesses such as Caffe Piccolo, and informed the visitors that the Camas Farmer’s Market, is held from 3 to 7 p.m., Wednesdays during the summer and early fall, in front of the library.

Schulstad said later the bus tour showed the participants how they are all connected.

“I really appreciated that CREDC understands the power, impact and importance of Main Street,” she said.

Schulstad added that strong downtown core areas have an impact on the livability and quality of a community.

Mercury said the bus tour provided a wonderful opportunity to connect with other partners including Northwest Natural Gas and representatives from the ports and LSW Architects.

“Many ideas were shared, and I know there will be steps forward and improvements in each individual city as we learn from each other,” she said.