What it looks like to deeply collaborate between public and private organizations to
support the community
By Kevin Teater
The BDA and the City of Beaverton won the 2021 Oregon Best Civic Partnership Award! Our organizations have been such incredible partners together during my three years here. I am very grateful for this award to recognize our shared efforts to support the downtown Beaverton community.
A partnership rooted in community
The City of Beaverton is our primary local government partner. Since our founding in 2011, the City has always had our back through its provision of grant funding, staff support, and clear pathways of communication. Rachel Thieme has been our primary liaison between the BDA and the City, serving as a non-voting member of our Board of Directors. Rachel has experience leading a business improvement district in New York, and she has been a great supporter for me, Kevin, throughout my entire time here. She and other City staff have continued to partner with us over the past year, notably including Megan Braunsten and Katie Keaotomai.
When COVID began in March 2020, the BDA started facilitating video calls with downtown programs from across the state. When other downtowns started saying that they were exploring street closures for outdoor dining, we shared that information with the City of Beaverton, saying that we should pursue this too. The City immediately started drafting ideas, which resulted in the Open Air Beaverton program. The City was in consistent communication with the BDA through City staff Sara King, Megan Braunsten, and Rachel Thieme.
Flexibility and creativity proved key
The Open Air Beaverton program provided flexibility for restaurants to use on-street parking space and private parking lots for expansions of dining areas. We had 8 restaurants approved for outdoor dining areas, which were a major reason why these businesses were able to stay open at all.
The City also approved the closure of 1st Street to car traffic so that an outdoor public space could be created. This was a major undertaking and required in-depth partnership with the BDA and local businesses, most importantly including Lionheart Coffee Company. The 1st Street Dining Commons has been overwhelmingly positively received, and many businesses
say they would have closed forever without this asset in downtown.
In November 2020, the BDA received $10,000 from the City of Beaverton Neighborhood Office to add some creativity to the Dining Commons, and we were able to add 2 new wall murals, 6 new sidewalk murals, and 9 new potted planters. The City helped us through permitting of these activities, and now we have some long-term public art along the street that make for a more interesting street environment.
Making it possible to make a difference
It’s not just the outdoor spaces that the City has supported, but it’s also our own organizational administration. Through the pandemic, we received approximately $65,000 to fund most of the executive director’s salary and the seed funding for some of our foundational programs. As a result, we have been able to launch a fantastic new community donation program and get that marketed and promoted. Without this funding, the BDA would likely not exist in its current form.
As businesses have been moving to downtown Beaverton, there have been shifts in the current business layout. Several existing businesses have had to move to new homes in downtown, and that’s born out an added cost (on top of what they have faced during the pandemic). The City has been exploring potential anti-displacement strategies and mitigation relief, such as funding support for affected businesses. Throughout this process, the City (Mike Williams and Rachel Thieme) have been key partners with the BDA as well.
We have also been working with the City to improve the walkability of the district. We conducted a walkability analysis of downtown in March 2020, and have since resumed our efforts. It has already resulted in the addition of some short-term lighting solutions to make the sidewalk less dark at night. It will also result in more benches, art, and sidewalk lighting around potentially-popular walking routes. While the BDA will take on some of this work, the City will help with the solutions that require a bigger financial or infrastructure investment.
Building on our success
As we emerge from COVID restrictions, people have once again been planning events in downtown. This includes the City-run Beaverton Night Market. City staff Alexis Ball and Jodi Monroy are the staff leads for that event, and they have been working with the BDA throughout the entire process. I helped with outreach to downtown businesses, and have been helping facilitate conversations between the Night Market planning team and the La Strada chalk art event planning team, which is happening at the same time and place.
Lastly, the City has invited me to represent the BDA at internal Downtown Team meetings. The Downtown Team is comprised of City staffers from every department that could possibly be involved in downtown. We talk about updates for projects affecting the district, and we make sure we are all on the same page with what is coming soon for downtown. They have dedicated time for me each month to share updates from the BDA
It’s not just staff who have been supporting us, but elected officials now as well. Mayor Beaty walked through downtown with me to meet business owners several times after she was elected to office. She is attending our Board meeting in August 2021. Councilor Nadia Hasan consistently advises me on issues related to downtown diversity and inclusion. Councilor Allison Tivnon and I get together each month to talk about downtown issues and needs. And Councilor Marc San Soucie has gotten together with me to talk through transportation issues in downtown. I know I can call on our elected officials when needed.
I have felt the BDA has been appropriately engaged and included in almost every facet of downtown development from the City’s perspective. We truly are partners in this work.
Reflecting on the road to the future
Rachel Thieme is the driver of our relationship with the City of Beaverton. She is an exceptional liaison, and I appreciate her support so much. She’s the face, but it’s a whole team behind her who stand ready to support the BDA and downtown. This district is headed in the right direction, and it’s a result of great people forming great partnerships like the one that exists between the BDA and the City of Beaverton.
Throughout the last year, I have learned to be more intentional with my communication with the City, reaching out to potential affected staff members early in project development. It was much easier when I could just stop by staff cubicles when in City Hall for meetings. But now with everything being virtual, it requires special effort to make sure the communication keeps flowing well.I appreciate Rachel for that. She helps keep the communication channels greased and flowing well. I’m not alone in this. The City of Beaverton has our back, and we
They, the whole City team, deserve this award.
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