Paving the Way to a Brighter Future

Awardee: Port Townsend Main Street Program

Award: Outstanding Special Project

Year: 2019

City: Port Townsend

Anyone who has been part of a major street rebuild knows the negative impact it can have on the district’s businesses. The general impression from locals and visitors that they “should just avoid downtown during construction” can take a dramatic toll. Port Townsend was facing their third major construction project in a ten-year span, and the Port Townsend Main Street Program knew they had to be extremely proactive in order to help their small business community survive the six-month stretch in 2018 during which Water Street, their Main Street, would be torn up.

The Main Street Program mobilized volunteers, community partners and business owners to create a multi-faceted communication and marketing strategy. Planning began a full year before the Water Street Enhancement Project broke ground by gathering input from business owners. Their requests included retail promotions, downtown greeters, a trivia game to generate foot traffic, a map and promotion of transit options. Between the City and a grant from First Federal Community Foundation, the team secured $60,000 to implement the plan that included the merchants’ ideas as well as print and online marketing, electric taxi rides free to the public, coupon books and reusable totes, historic walking tours, and more.

Yet another part of the Main Street Program’s strategic effort to support their businesses during construction was Port Townsend’s successful application to host our state conference, RevitalizeWA, which generated nearly $140,000 in local spending, a major boost during the peak of construction.

Whereas some businesses projected 40% profit loss during construction, the reality was that many businesses reported they were down only as much as 8% and some reported no losses at all during the six-month period. The district also saw four new business open and one business expansion during construction!

The campaign resulted in major relief to the small businesses and brought energy and optimism to the construction experience. Because of the new public spaces and streetscape some businesses are now reporting up to 20% increase in sales above preconstruction numbers. This was possible because people worked together to make the best of a challenging time – which has led to an even more beautiful downtown for all.