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Ideas for bringing new life to downtown Oak Harbor | Letter
There has been talk about how to revitalize the Pioneer Way shopping. People seem confused as to why shoppers aren’t coming down there to spend time and money.
I have traveled to a few tourist towns in my life, partly the product of being and staying married for 32 years.
Let me provide some insight into the problems and potential solutions:
The architecture – create a zone around Pioneer Way that could only have Dutch style architecture. This would apply to new construction and as old buildings are replaced. This has worked for towns like Solvang and Leavenworth.
You must have a distinctive separation from the commercial part of town for this to work.
You need to deal with the panhandlers. Whether it is through tougher laws against the practice or providing services or housing, it is an issue that must be addressed. Unless, of course, this is something we want to celebrate.
The farmers market needs to be moved to Pioneer Way if it is to remain a once-a-week event. I am reminded by one of the best farmers markets located in San Luis Obispo. They shut down Higuera Street on Thursday evenings and the street fills with vendors, restaurants with their barbecues a blaze, and musicians hired to play at intersections. It has turned into a giant event and gathering.
There needs to be a committee that approves what type of business can open in the Pioneer district. I don’t go to tourist towns to look for tattoo parlors or bars that I can’t see through the windows.
More touristy shops and better restaurants/delis are needed.
The fifth issue is to celebrate the pulse of Oak Harbor – the U.S. Navy. The PBY Memorial Foundation wants to set up its museum on Pioneer. Instead of just setting up shop somewhere, the city should create a building with Dutch architecture down on the vacant lot at Pioneer and Midway down by the water. This museum should be something every Oak Harbor citizen should be proud of and something tourists would like to visit.
However, if none of these work, I have one more trick up my sleeve — close Deception Pass Bridge to vehicle traffic and turn it into a bicycle/walking bridge to tie together Deception Pass State Park.Rather than a town that you drive through to get somewhere, Oak Harbor becomes an end of the road destination.
People always want to drive to the end of the road — dont’cha know?