(L) On July 23, 2016 more than 5,000 people filled Downtown at the 7th First City Celebration and Oregon Trail Brew Fest. (R) Aerial view of the First City Celebration.
“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.”
Oregon City, known as the first incorporated city in the American West and the official end of the Oregon Trail, has undergone an inspiring revival. The town’s evolution – from pioneer’s oasis in the 19th century, to industrial center in the 20th century, to the dynamic cultural destination residents and visitors enjoy today – is a testament to a deeply-rooted local entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to continuous growth.
This transformation has occurred in the face of hardships that are an all too familiar story in once-thriving industrial towns, including the closing of one of the town’s major employers, a disruptive streetscape project, and the departure of county administrative offices. Over the last decade, under the auspices of DOCA, the city has seen nearly $42 million invested in the downtown district’s buildings, streetscapes, and infrastructure, in addition to over two-dozen new business openings and hundreds of new jobs.
“Once a district filled with taverns catering to a now-defunct paper mill, Downtown Oregon City is now an emerging and vibrant destination. It is a transformation that 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.
(L) Now in its fifth generation of family ownership, Tony’s Fish Market has been serving fresh caught local fish in Downtown since 1936. (R) Oregon City Brewing Company founders got their start brewing in their garage. They have now transformed what was a dilapidated used car lot into a vibrant family-friendly community gathering spot.
A city of “firsts,” Oregon City is home to an overwhelming majority of first-time owner or family-operated businesses. DOCA helps foster this entrepreneurial spirit by strategically recruiting new potential businesses and providing close support to existing businesses to help them thrive. Visitors and residents enjoy the fruits of this labor at a number of unique local outposts, including diverse restaurants, a brewery, an award-winning bakery, and a fifth-generation family-owned fish shop.
“The future of Downtown Oregon City is remarkable, we’ve been able to authentically maintain our historic heritage while meeting the needs of our community. Our downtown is unique as it is still growing, we are lucky to have space available for development as well as existing property available for redevelopment. With our growing population in Oregon City, downtown has become the place we gather as a community and create memories. This award highlights the strong partnerships involved in revitalization.”
Downtown Oregon City embodies what it means to be a Main Street; they bring the community together and are paving the way for a bright and prosperous future.