East Fourth Plain Boulevard is seriously becoming a happening zone thanks to Fourth Plain Forward, a nonprofit group of Vancouver residents and small business owners. The group is dedicated to supporting the success and well-being of small businesses and the community within what is considered the City’s one-of-a-kind international district spanning the portion of Fourth Plain roughly between Interstate 5 and NE Andresen Road.
“We watch businesses and provide resources to try and make sure they are successful and taken care of,” says Bill Steiner, board president of Fourth Plain Forward and owner of Anderson Glass Company. “It is our advocacy work to go out and try to help the community and businesses in any way we can.”
Fourth Plain Forward is a significant accomplishment of the multi-year City initiative to improve the diverse international district. The mission is to focus on strengthening and growing small businesses, creating opportunities for entrepreneurs, improving the corridor’s safety and appearance, and promoting equitable and inclusive development.
“There is a long history over the last two decades with the community working together to support each other and the businesses along the corridor,” explains Rebecca Kennedy, deputy director of community development for the City of Vancouver. “There are tons of community-based organizations and partners involved, including neighborhood associations and Clark County Public Health.”
Fourth Plain Forward advocates for communities and businesses to help them thrive. Their team connect residents and local businesses with resources, promote events and activities, and champion for safety and transportation improvements. Additional resources brought to the Fourth Plain corridor thanks to the community and partner organizations include funding to support transportation improvements, affordable housing, and programs that increase economic activity. And these efforts are working. The area is fast becoming a sought-after destination for visitors to shop, dine and explore diverse cultures.
“You’ve got to come down here and experience the feeling,” shares Steiner spiritedly. “It is very vibrant. The idea is to also pull people down here from outside the fourth plain area for the businesses.”
Programs include the Fourth Plain Murals Program, Storefront Improvement, small business emergency grants, and small business technical assistance. “We also provide business assistance and help to develop websites,” explains Steiner. “We help to navigate the waters to start and stabilize businesses. And we have translations available in many different languages.”
Community engagement programs further include a free, family-friendly, annual summer’s end Multicultural Festival at Evergreen Park located at 3500 E Fourth Plain Boulevard. The event features live cultural performances, sports, delicious foods, arts activities, games, booths for local organizations, and more.
“Fourth Plain Forward has led the way in keeping connections alive this past year, especially, by consistently engaging with the community,” says Audrey Clark, president of the Clark County Mural Society and owner and wellness entrepreneur coach for Audrey Clark Co. LLC. “Mural art and community involvement has played a large part in the positive impact for this community.”
Fourth Plain Forward’s new ¡Espacio de Arte en el Parque! (Art Space in the Park!) is a collaborative program with Vancouver Ballet Folklórico, a local traditional Mexican folk dance group and Artstra, a local nonprofit arts advocacy group happening at Evergreen Park bi-monthly May through October from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. The purpose for the free community engagement opportunity is to provide art activities for youth living in and around the fourth plain corridor. Activities include painting, origami, reading, dancing and making recycled art.
For those searching for something delicious to eat or a new restaurant to try, Fourth Plain Boulevard features a variety of restaurants serving everything from Asian cuisine to Mexican munchies. Flavor, another new program, is an annual, month-long dining event that highlights and celebrates locally owned restaurants on Fourth Plain Boulevard. “The food down here is so incredible and authentic,” says Steiner. “The restaurants are family-owned and true to their culture.”
There are also great international grocery stores along this corridor where you get access to true authentic food. “Being down here is so cool,” shares Steiner animatedly. “You get to see things you don’t see at local grocery stores, and it’s all specialty stuff.”
Kennedy says Fourth Plain Forward is like a North Star for the city initiative to improve the corridor. “The City sees Fourth Plain Forward as an invaluable partner, and we are extremely supportive and appreciative of their efforts to be the hub of resources for the community to get together to celebrate the cultural diversity of one another and to support businesses. Over the last few years, Fourth Plain Forward has become a robust organization. During the pandemic, they did a lot to support businesses to help keep them going and adapt to what is going on.”