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Plan + Process = Success!

August 31, 2017

St. Helens grant process.jpgBy Jasmine Jordan

When members of St. Helens Economic Development Corporation (SHEDCO), the downtown association in St. Helens, first heard about the Oregon Main Street Revitalization Grant, we immediately recognized the potential impact such a program could have on our local businesses. The scenic riverfront and beautiful historic buildings attract many visitors to our little town along the Columbia, yet several properties have degraded over the years and are due for both aesthetic and safety improvements. The challenge with this grant was creating a process to select a project that aligned with their priorities and would be competitive.

Of the 212 properties that are within the Designated Main Street District in St. Helens, SHEDCO had to select one project for the grant. Given the limited time left before the grant application was due, I created a four-week selection process. First, I sent personal letters to all of the property owners within the district. I asked the owners to send me proposals for projects that would both help St. Helens advance its community development goals and meet the state requirements for the grant.

Of the proposals we received, eight of them seemed feasible and urgent enough to proceed to the next round. All of the businesses that sent proposals that met the basic requirements were asked to present their ideas in front of our board. They were asked to bring building drawings, plans, and any other documents that would help us with our decision. The proposals were scored on four aspects:

  • Does it meet the goals of the grant program
  • Does it help SHEDCOs mission to provide the leadership and coordination necessary to enhance the economic viability of St. Helens
  • Does it meet logistical requirements (deadlines, funding, contracting, permitting, zoning)
  • Does it fit with larger city economic development plans

After the four-week selection process, SHEDCO chose a proposal presented by the local restaurant El Tapatio. During the winter storms this past January, the El Tapatio building sustained significant roof damage, limiting operations. The grant will help fund the roof repairs, rehabilitate the building, and expand the inner and outer dining area.  The project will enhance the pedestrian experience along Columbia Boulevard by adding an outdoor patio with a fountain and flower pots.

The entire community was ecstatic when we learned that the El Tapatio project had been selected as one of the grant finalist. SHEDCO hopes to expand its selection process for the 2018 round of the Oregon Main Street Revitalization Grant by encouraging more properties owners to submit proposals.

St. Helens is part of the Oregon Main Street Network. In 2015, the Oregon Main Street Revitalization Grant program was established by the legislature with a $2.5 million infusion of lottery bond funds. 27 projects were funded across the state. In 2017, $5 million for this grant was included in a lottery bond bill. This funding will be awarded in spring of 2019. To learn more about Oregon Main Street and the grant program visit www.oregonheritage.org

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