Imagine a Main Street in Vancouver, Washington, as walkable as the waterfront, filled with rotating art pieces and places to gather with friends and families. A Main Street with marathons and street festivals, where you don’t need a car to get around — better yet, where walking is half the fun. The Main Street Promise Project begins construction in July 2024 to turn the City of Vancouver, Washington’s vision into reality.

Since the 1990s, city officials like Ryan Lopossa have fought for a better Main Street in Vancouver. But funding fumbled every approach until the American Rescue Plan Act provided Vancouver with its pandemic relief. Officials knew they wanted to help small businesses hurt during the pandemic, to “build something long-lasting. Something that we can look back on in 10-15-20 years,” Lopossa shares. And so, dreams of the new Main Street sprouted again.

This is a view of Vancouver, Washington in 1965. Change is coming to Vancouver Washington in the form of the Main Street Promise Project. Photo courtesy: Clark County Historical Museum

Vancouver Main Street Vision

Big changes are coming and as always that means major construction will soon be underway. But don’t worry, the City has gone through every avenue to make these changes as smooth as possible. City planners have reached out to community members; taken struggles from past projects, such as the Broadway Project, into account; and gathered insights on Main Street construction projects around the country.

Their goal is to structure the project around the needs of locals, not just vendors. The construction is divided into three phases. It spans from 5th Street to 15thStreet, and they will only have two blocks at a time under construction, Lopossa explains. While this approach might take longer, with a two-year timeline, it ensures that driving traffic only ever loses two streets at a time, and pedestrians can always reach their favorite businesses.

Don’t worry about heading to Main Street to find your errands unreachable. When sidewalk construction begins, temporary paths will sprout up in their place. No business entrance should be closed for longer than a few hours. Construction teams are required to provide their schedule to city planners every week. City planners will then share that information with locals designated as captains for their two-block segments. These captains will ensure that every business knows the plan and that interruptions to operating hours are communicated to customers.

Vancouver, Washington, Main Street Promise project sign
Change is coming to Vancouver, Washington, in the form of the Main Street Promise Project. Photo credit: Danica Carlson Keener

Vancouver Main Street Project Phases

The Main Street Promise Project plans to tackle problems before they arise. Phase one means new sewer lines, a long overdue upgrade as the pipes were last updated in the 1950s. That means we’re ready for new waterlines as well — phase two. With the underground improvements complete, phase three will bring Main Street’s vision to life.

City planners remain flexible — open to adjusting the project’s phases to expedite progress. “We estimated about four to six weeks for every two-block section,” Lopossa shares. But combining phases one and two could expedite the overall project timeline even if it increases the closure duration for each segment. Communication is quintessential to their plans, so as things change, the city will make sure residents are in the know.

Making Vancouver’s Main Street Beautiful

This project is more than just infrastructure. It’s about creating a space that prioritizes people over vehicles. The new design will include wider sidewalks, new pedestrian spaces, and furnishing zones, along with upgraded street and decorative lighting. The outdated, angled parking on the west side will be replaced with parallel parking, maintaining the same number of parking spaces while adding electric vehicle charging stations and more bike parking.

Innovation meets design with the curbless sidewalks, which remove traditional barriers between the roadway and sidewalks, allowing seamless pedestrian movement. This design not only enhances accessibility but also provides the flexibility to close the street for events without the typical obstructions.

downtown Vancouver, Washington street and building with a blue truck parked on the street
When construction’s done it won’t look like the old Main Street of any past we know. From the sidewalks to the gathering areas and the art in between, a new destination is being made. Photo credit: Danica Carlson Keener

Main Street Promises Accessibility for All

Safety is a key focus, with planned traffic calming measures, including speed tables, to slow down vehicles. City Planners aim for a consistent speed limit of 15-20 mph, making the street safer for pedestrians and cyclists. The curbless sidewalks ensure easy movement for cyclists and folks on mobility devices. Improved lighting and modernized traffic signals will brighten the dark segments and enhance visibility and accessibility for all.

By making Main Street friendlier to pedestrians and cyclists, City Planners hope to reduce the traffic load in the area. But even if we don’t see a major reduction in cars downtown, the electric vehicle charging stations will attract greener methods of travel. And as a bonus, there are plans for at least one electric bike charging station. Getting around Downtown Vancouver has never cost less emissions. “We really are trying to minimize the footprint here,” Lopossa promises.

Making Main Street in Vancouver a Destination

Main Street isn’t just a thoroughfare — it’s set to become a destination for Vancouver’s major events. City planners and the Special Events Team are collaborating to infuse art and community into this central space. Their goal is to create a vibrant cultural atmosphere by inviting local artists to contribute and enhance the street’s aesthetic appeal.

Vancouverites have an exciting lineup of events to anticipate on Main Street. The potentials are endless from vibrant farmer’s markets to lively music and art festivals, and even marathons, Main Street is set to become the place to be. Water and utility hookups will ensure vendors have everything they need for successful events. There are even talks of summer plans to temporarily close the corridor for locals to take over. The Main Street of Vancouver’s dreams is on its way, and by 2026, we’ll be basking in the rewards of this ambitious endeavor.

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