On March 26, OC takes home 2018 Great American Main Street Award from a national conference in Kansas City, Missouri

On March 26, Oregon City leaders took home the 2018 Great American Main Street Award from a national conference in Kansas City, Missouri.

PHOTO COURTESY: DOCA - Main Street closes to traffic each year for an antique fair in Oregon City that draws thousands of people seeking collectables.Leaders of the downtown association, City Commission, state and Clackamas County representatives traveled to attend the Main Street Now Conference.

"Oregon City wowed our jury this year," said Patrice Frey, president and CEO of the National Main Street Center. "From the natural splendor of its surroundings, to its fascinating history, to the cluster of dynamic downtown businesses, Oregon City is a special community made even more impressive by the efforts of the Downtown Oregon City Association."

As this newspaper reported in January, Oregon City was nominated among nine other cities as a Great American Main Street semifinalist. Semifinalists were chosen by a national jury of community development professionals and representatives of government agencies involved in economic development and historic preservation. Oregon City was one of only three winners chosen from the group of semifinalists.

National Main Street Center officials say the work of DOCA has paid off in transforming a downtown industrial district into the civic heart of the city.

"Downtown's transformation began with catalytic investments in the streetscape and facade grant programs, which have attracted a diverse group of independent businesses," said Jonathan Stone, executive director of the Downtown Oregon City Association.

Since 2009, nearly $42 million has been invested in the district's buildings, streetscapes and infrastructure and 28 new businesses have opened.

Stone said: "This is an honor shared by the Oregon City community, downtown businesses, property owners and our partner organizations. It validates the sweat and tears of everyone that has given of their time and money to make Downtown Oregon City a place we can all be proud of."

Along with Oregon City, other contenders for the award were Berlin, Maryland; Brunswick, Maine; Chillicothe, Missouri; Grapevine, Texas; Howell, Michichigan; Saline, Michigan; Rock Springs, Wyoming; Tupelo, Mississippi; and Wausau, Wisconsin.

"Downtown Oregon City's 10 years of brilliant planning and nurturing of a collaborative downtown community has earned them this prestigious nomination," said Nancy Ide, Oregon City commissioner and Downtown Oregon City Association board member.

Oregon City is the first community in Oregon and the first on the West Coast in the past eight years to be selected as a Great American Main Street Award winner.

"The transformation of Downtown Oregon City over the past nine years has been absolutely remarkable," said Sheri Stuart, coordinator of the statewide Oregon Main Street program. "When DOCA joined the Main Street network, there were just a handful of participating Main Street programs in the state. Now, there are over 90. Many of our programs look to Oregon City as a model revitalization effort."

A city of "firsts," Oregon City is home to 90 percent first-time owner or family-operated businesses. DOCA recruits new potential businesses and providing close support to existing businesses. Visitors and residents to Oregon City have access to seven local breweries and cideries, an award-winning bakery and a fifth-generation family-owned fish shop.

Stuart has worked with hundreds of main-street communities in 24 states over 27 years at the state, local and national level.

"It has been my pleasure to work with DOCA since 2009," Stuart said. "The transformation of their downtown in a relatively short amount of time is nothing short of amazing, especially since their revitalization efforts began at the start of the economic downturn."

DOCA will host an open house from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 7, when downtown businesses will open their doors to meet and greet customers and share the best of their business. The event features all-day happy hours, live music, "open house specials", and unique tutorials.

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