Sandy Spencer, Port Townsend Main Street board member, left, and Executive Director Mari Mullen are preparing a campaign to help downtown businesses thrive during the six months of Water Street construction that is scheduled to begin Jan. 2. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Sandy Spencer, Port Townsend Main Street board member, left, and Executive Director Mari Mullen are preparing a campaign to help downtown businesses thrive during the six months of Water Street construction that is scheduled to begin Jan. 2. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Townsend Main Street plans campaign to help businesses during construction

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend Main Street Program has a plan to help downtown businesses thrive during the 6-month Water Street Enhancement Project construction set to begin Jan. 2.

“It can be a challenge for businesses when there is construction,” said Mari Mullen, executive director of Port Townsend Main Street. “But we have learned from past construction projects that if you keep activity and interest going you can really cement the connection with the locals.”

The Water Street Enhancement Project will run from the Port Townsend ferry landing and along Water Street to Taylor Street.

The project will replace the 80-year-old sewer lines running under Water Street, revamp the sidewalks along Water Street, resize parking spaces in downtown and transform the small parking lot at the end of Tyler Street into a pedestrian area with beach access.

Main Street’s plan includes numerous events set for each month in an effort to attract more people to downtown. Main Street is also printing coupon books with special offers. Mullen said almost 60 businesses signed up to participate in the program.

The theme for the campaign is “paving the way to a brighter future,” a nod to the construction that will beautify the downtown area.

Sandy Spencer, Main Street board member and owner of the Lively Olive Tasting Bar, said the program is needed.

“Winters can be challenging without a construction project,” she said. “With it being a winter season with construction, our goal is not only to encourage folks to come downtown to support businesses, but because there are a lot of good and fun activities.”

She called Main Street the heart of the downtown community. The organization encourages businesses to coordinate together and be involved in activities and promotions together.

“I’m a real supporter of Main Street,” she said.

Main Street will be using a $35,000 grant from the First Federal Community Foundation and $25,000 from the city to host the events and spread the word through social media and mail.

First Federal also contributed to Main Street’s Light at the End of Tunnel (LENT) Fund, which allows local businesses to secure micro-loans from the revolving fund for up to $4,000.

“If they need that extra help during construction they can call the office and fill out an application,” Mullen said.

There will also be classes that businesses can sign up for that will cover social media, business management and other topics.

Throughout the construction season there will be “celebrity concierges” who will greet visitors downtown and help out wherever they can from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays, she said.

In January is the “Believe it or Knot” game, in which visitors are encouraged to visit numerous shops downtown to learn more about Port Townsend.

The theme for February is “Local Love.” During this month, people will be encouraged to shop and dine downtown during construction and to share what they love about Port Townsend.

On Saturdays in March, the Jefferson County Historical Society will offer tours. Tours will also be part of the Victorian Festival set for March 24-25.

In April, visitors will be encouraged to count their steps to be entered in prize drawings.

May will boast art’s related events throughout the month and children’s art will be on display in businesses for all to see.

In June, Main Street will celebrate the expected completion of the construction project with the “Tyler Street Plaza Wrap-Up Party.”

Mullen said that based on her experience, locals are looking to support local businesses — especially when they are facing tough times such as construction.

“These are our friends and neighbors and they have raised their families here,” she said. “It’s really a time to rally and get people to connect to our downtown.”

For more information and more events, visit ptmainstreet.org.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

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