Downtown Revitalization a Key Economic Development Focus in La Grande, Oregon
23 Mar 2023
Downtowns are centers of civic, cultural, economic and social activity across the nation, from the largest city to the smallest town. Ensuring a stable, vibrant and beautiful downtown area is critical to provide the community with a place to gather, celebrate, shop, eat, work and live.
Main Street America is a national organization dedicated to strengthening areas with historic downtowns. In La Grande, OR, the La Grande Main Street Downtown (LGMSD), a member of Main Street America, relies on unique economic development techniques to preserve and build on its historic downtown commercial district.
The LGMSD’s mission is to revitalize the heart of La Grande by preserving and promoting its historical and cultural heritage, working together to foster a vibrant and inclusive downtown community that supports local businesses, tourism and economic development. The nonprofit organization is funded through memberships, community fundraisers and assistance from La Grande’s Urban Renewal Agency. It is supported with additional technical assistance from the National Trust for Historic Preservation through Main Street America.
LGMSD serves the business community of downtown La Grande by leveraging community assets to generate investment, create jobs and foster the rehabilitation of downtown buildings and areas throughout the Main Street district. Numerous city leaders and volunteers work together uniquely to promote economic vitality for the community.
The LGMSD Façade Restoration Grant Program is intended to improve the physical appearance, structural integrity and character of the historic buildings in Downtown La Grande. As a result, the downtown area becomes attractive to local consumers and tourists while encouraging additional business investment opportunities and improvements. Commercial property owners can apply for matching grants from the LGMSD to restore the exterior of their buildings. Funding comes from the City of La Grande Urban Renewal Agency, established by the City of La Grande in 1999. The long-term investment strategy focuses on capital improvement projects in the La Grande Urban Renewal Area, representing nearly 20% of the city. Interested property owners can learn more about the Main Street Facade Policy and Guidelines or apply.
Dedicated individuals in the organization utilize several committees to reach its essential goals. The Economic Vitality Committee seeks to strengthen the local economic base by forming collaborative relationships with existing businesses, property owners and other partners like the La Grande Urban Renewal Agency.
The Design Committee seeks to enhance downtown La Grande’s physical appearance by utilizing public art, streetscapes and activating public spaces to preserve the community identity and sense of place. Examples include pocket parks, ghost signs, flower baskets and Christmas decor.
The Outreach Committee intends to unite the community to support this ongoing revitalization effort by recruiting volunteers and developing partnerships through fundraising, membership, and events like the Eastern Oregon Beer Festival.
The Promotion Committee works to position downtown as a center of community activity, promote its positive image and market its unique assets. The committees utilize numerous events to achieve their goals. Some of the most popular include:
- The Eastern Oregon Beer Festival at the Union County Fairgrounds, August 19, 2023, is Eastern Oregon’s signature Craft Beer event and LGMSD’s largest annual fundraising event. Proceeds from this event sustain the LGMSD annual operating budget and help fund additional revitalization efforts, including placemaking improvements to public spaces and amenities throughout the downtown and various other downtown events.
- The annual St Paddy’s Shuffle 5k-10k fun run
- Safe Downtown Trick or Treating
- Small Business Saturday
- Christmas Parade & Tree Lighting
- New Year's Ball Drop
The LGMSD is a Designated Main Street Program with the Oregon Main Street Network, which is dedicated to preserving the history and economic vitality of downtowns throughout the state. As a Main Street America™ Coordinating Program, they provide technical support to local programs, whether that is developing a vision for their commercial districts, tourist and business attraction initiatives and more. Oregon Main Street offers training, technical assistance, and access to other statewide resources, including the Oregon Main Street Revitalization Grant, to fund building improvement projects.
The City of La Grande Economic Development is here to support small businesses, entrepreneurs and organizations like LGMSD with a range of services, resources and expertise to help them along the path to success. Please call (541) 962-1307 or email us with any questions about assistance today!