Efforts to make the historic Port Townsend business districts shine this past year during construction have drawn accolades from the Washington State Main Street Program.
During an awards event March 25 in Seattle, the Port Townsend Main Street Program earned the 2019 “Paving the Way to a Brighter Future” award. Additionally, the 2019 “Excellence on Main” was awarded to Kris Nelson, board president of the Port Townsend Main Street Program and Port Townsend entrepreneur.
Paving the way to a brighter future
Last year, PTMSP planned ahead to help small businesses survive the six-month stretch of the Water Street Construction Project, said Mari Mullen, PTMSP executive director.
The group mobilized its board, committees, community partners and local business owners to create a multi-prong communication and marketing plan titled “Paving the Way to a Brighter Future.”
“Everyone worked together to make the best of a challenging time - which has led to an even more beautiful downtown for all,” Mullen said.
The committee began work a year before the Water Street Enhancement Project broke ground, gathering input from businesses and integrating their recommendations into the plan.
The team created a full menu of activities and events to bring positive energy downtown every month during construction, Mullen said.
Main Street was able to secure $60,000 through the city and an economic development grant from the First Federal Community Foundation to produce print and social media, radio underwriting, media outreach, free electric taxi rides, coupon books and reusable totes distributed by businesses. In addition, the district carried out promotions such as the “Believe it or Knot” trivia game, “Love Letters to Port Townsend” improv performances by Key City Public Theatre and historic walking tours.
Another strategic effort to support businesses during construction was Main Street’s successful application to host the “RevitalizeWA” Washington State Main Street conference in April 2018. According to Mullen, this event brought 320 guests to Port Townsend for three days and generated nearly $140,000 in local spending, a major boost for Port Townsend at the peak of construction.
Whereas some businesses projected up to a 40% profit loss during construction, the reality was that many businesses reported they were down only as much as 8% and with some reporting no losses at all during the six-month period, Mullen said.
Four new businesses opened, and one business expanded during construction.
Excellence on Main
The “Excellence on Main” award is the highest accolade given at the Excellence on Main awards celebration.
Nelson was nominated because she has been instrumental in the success of PTMSP during her past six years of service, with two years as board president. She also serves on the board of the Jefferson County Chamber and her past civic service has included leadership roles on the City Council, the Planning Commission and the Jefferson Community Foundation board.
Nelson has been instrumental in many of the PTMSP’s initiatives over the last several years - from the Water Street construction project and bringing the RevitalizeWA Conference to Port Townsend, to chairing the team that oversees the downtown loan programs and participating on the Creative Districts planning committee, said Breanne Durham, Washington State Main Street director.
“She is exceedingly generous with the profits from her businesses, supporting many festivals, organizations, and arts programs in Port Townsend. She is continuously striving to make her community more prosperous and vibrant.”
Nelson’s leadership on the Port Townsend Main Street Board has led to increased economic stability and effectiveness of the nonprofit organization, which is dedicated to the historic preservation, promotion and economic prosperity of Port Townsend’s commercial historic districts, Mullen said.
In 2018, Nelson coordinated 32 special events, the Main Street marketing and communications plan for the Water Street Enhancement Project, the LENT Low Interest Loan Fund, the HUD Low Interest Loan Fund and the Port Townsend Main Street Program’s 2018 winter marketing plan for the City of Port Townsend.
Nelson also participates on the winter lighting subcommittee, oversees sponsorships, the Main Street membership program and board development.
As board president, Nelson chairs the Executive Committee and chairs the Economic Committee which oversees loan programs.
Nelson owns Sirens Pub, Alchemy Wine Bar and Bistro, The Old Whiskey Mill and The In-Between.