City leaders said downtown Washington had “major momentum” in early 2021. A year later, executives – including Downtown Washington Inc. executive director Tyler King – said they believed that the city’s historic business district was “catching its pace.”
“We’re definitely on the move and growing, especially when I talk to so many people who want to buy and fix some of our old buildings, open new businesses downtown,” said King, who released the annual report of the organization on Monday.
According to the report, 12 new businesses opened downtown in 2021, the same number of businesses that opened downtown in 2020.
Companies that opened in 2021 include: Keller Williams Realty, 203 Elm St.; Oak & Front Wine Bar, 120 W. Front St .; Room for the art gallery, 124 W. Main St .; River Sirens Hotel, 4 E. Main St .; Track Jones Supplies, 205 Jefferson St .; Peace of Mind, 11 W. Main St .; Beautiful You, 216 Elm Street; Patke Restoration, 321, rue Lafayette; NOA Medical, 5 Main Street West; 3rd at Jefferson, 220 Jefferson St.; Front Street Cellars & Inn, 430 W. Front St .; and Kim’s Candy Buffet, 201 W. Main St.
Three companies opened new downtown locations, including Chimera Creative Works, 209 W. Third St .; Dapper Bully Barber Shop, 313 Elm St., and Loushane Sebastian Salon, 106 W. Main St.
King said several other companies are considering a possible expansion or relocation to the city center in 2022.
According to an informal survey by staff in downtown Washington, these new businesses helped create 53 net new jobs in the downtown area.
According to the 2020 report, 58 new jobs were created that year, up from 30 in 2019.
Each new business that opens in the downtown area creates a ripple effect in the economy, city leaders said, as employees of these new businesses are more likely to dine out, do shopping or finding accommodation near the city center.
“People see the growth and excitement of downtown and they want to be a part of it,” King said.
Fourth Ward Councilor Joe Holtmeier, who is one of two council members representing downtown Washington, agreed. “People love the city center. They want to live there, it’s great, ”said Holtmeier.
As the number of new employees working downtown grows, Holtmeier and King said they hope they can get a grocer to come back downtown.
“It’s something we hear all the time,” King said. A recently completed survey, the results of which will be released in late January or early February, should strengthen the community’s desire to see a grocer come back downtown. The last one, Droege’s, closed over a decade ago.
For the purposes of its annual report, Downtown Washington Inc. focuses on the parts of Washington from Front Street in the south to Fifth Street and from Jefferson Street in the east to High Street in the west.
Within these limits, more than $ 6.5 million was spent on private investment from January to November 2021. The city has yet to release information on commercial and residential building permits issued in December. .
“I am extremely pleased with that number,” said King, who acknowledged that the 2021 figure was down from $ 11.5 million in downtown private investment in 2020 when Shoe Factory Lofts were under construction.
He said the outlook for continued private investment downtown looks bright as renovations continue in the old Pecka building, 100 W. Main St .; the Calvin Theater, 311 W. Elm St .; and the old Missourian building in downtown, 14 W. Main St.
The downtown area has also benefited from public improvements of $ 95,000, which King says range from improving sewers to resurfacing sidewalks and streets.
Washington Mayor Sandy Lucy said she sees the rejuvenation of the downtown area getting “stronger and stronger” every year as residents and visitors to Washington “embrace downtown as an important part of Washington.”
Fourth Ward Councilor Gretchen Pettet, who along with Holtmeier represents downtown Washington on the Washington City Council, said downtown is booming. She credited the work of downtown Washington in organizing events for helping to increase the “economic vitality of Main Street, Elm Street, Front Street and all of downtown.”
Last year, downtown Washington hosted 37 community events, including its Art Fair and Winefest, WashMo BBQ and Bluesfest, Sunset on the Riverfront and the Holiday Parade of Lights.
The organization’s volunteers also logged more than 9,700 hours of volunteering downtown, including 284 collective hours donated by more than 70 volunteers to the Community Cleanup Day, a feat King said he was particularly proud of. “We know people are busy, but having a record attendance shows you how dedicated downtown people are. “