Some long-stalled projects and programs in the Tri-Cities have gotten new life recently from new leadership.
The Hanford Reach Interpretive Center and the carousel project are prime examples.
And now, so is downtown Pasco.
For years, an all-volunteer group has struggled to find the time, leadership and resources to reinvigorate downtown Pasco. The Pasco Downtown Development Association's downfall was not a shortage of good intentions or ideas. But execution was lacking when it came to breathing long-term life back into downtown.
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The Pasco Farmers Market is one of the few shining examples of success from the group, but with the proliferation of markets in recent years, it's facing new competition. And the popular Fiery Foods Festival was discontinued by the PDDA in 2010 because of a lack of volunteers and money to produce the event.
That may have been the last straw. The city stepped in later that year and took steps to create a new public corporation, the Downtown Pasco Development Authority, which became an official entity last year. Its aim is to bring energy back to a downtown that was once the center of life in the Mid-Columbia, but now is a disjointed jumble of businesses with vacant storefronts and a lack of a cohesive business community.
The new corporation marked some major milestones recently, hiring an executive director and obtaining the assets of the PDDA.
Expectations are going to be high for Executive Director Amy Kuchler as she takes the reins of the new public corporation. She has been given a big to-do list, which includes review of the $259,000 budget and proposing ideas for community events.
The city is helping by providing temporary office space and surplus office equipment. A grant helped pay for Kuchler's recent trip to the National Main Streets Conference in Baltimore.
The new corporation will take the good from the old PDDA -- the Pasco Specialty Kitchen, the Pasco Farmers Market and the facade improvement program for downtown businesses -- and build upon those successes while creating additional programs.
Kuchler doesn't have a background in economic development, but she has worked for area nonprofits and hospital foundations, which gave her some event planning experience. The board of the corporation is hoping she'll bring some youthful enthusiasm to the job and a fresh set of eyes to the dilemma of downtown Pasco.
The area is sorely in need of some attention and care. It does have some assets to work with, and building on the food theme for an annual event would seem like a natural fit, whether the city brings back the Fiery Foods Festival or creates something new.
Downtown Pasco has some great restaurants, many of which most folks in the Tri-Cities have probably never visited. Important services are provided downtown and longtime businesses have weathered the challenges there.
A strategic marketing campaign is in order, as is participation and buy-in from existing businesses. The best efforts can't succeed without support from the community, whether that's through volunteerism, attendance at events or simply by having an open mind.
Kuchler and the Downtown Pasco Development Authority have their work cut out for them, but we're hoping the community gives the new organization a chance to get on its feet and make a difference in downtown Pasco.