If you've spent much time on Tigard's Main Street, it's likely you have noticed some of the public art installations in the area.
There aren't all that many of them — some 20 glass "baskets" that hang along the street like flower baskets do in many downtown areas, a few metal sculptures, some painted panels. But they represent an important part of the nonprofit Tigard Downtown Alliance's efforts to make Main Street and the surrounding area more attractive.
"It's a streetscape improvement," said Steve DeAngelo, owner of downtown business DeAngelo's Catering and the alliance's president. "It's an enhancement to the district. I think it's a traffic-driver. I think as it prospers, it will become more of a traffic-driver."
Group is behind annual Art Walk
The Tigard Downtown Alliance might best be known in the community for the Downtown Tigard Art Walk. The annual event started in 2014 as a way to boost the profile of local artists and businesses while driving people to Tigard's downtown, a long-neglected area that has recently been undergoing something of a renaissance.
This year's Art Walk is Saturday, May 13, with a "meet the artists" reception Friday evening from 5 to 7 p.m. at participating downtown businesses. There will be a pop-up art gallery from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at the former site of Carquest Auto Parts, 12175 S.W. Main St., as well as a sidewalk show-and-sell on Main Street during those hours as well.
The event is free to attend, and attendees are invited to vote for their favorite artwork to receive a "People's Choice" award.
One large piece of memorabilia from a past Art Walk is still visible downtown. "Mobius," a donut-shaped sculpture by Estacada artist and metalworker Ben Dye, stands next to Symposium Coffee, 12345 S.W. Main St., in front of a public area the city plans to develop as Rotary Plaza.
"'Mobius' is obviously very, very stately, big, takes a lot of airspace to be able to enjoy it," DeAngelo said. "But I love it."
"Mobius" is on indefinite loan from Dye through the Tigard Downtown Alliance.
Another piece of metal art at the corner of Burnham Street and Ash Avenue is on a more temporary loan. Portland artist Mike Suri's "Peer" recently replaced "The Perch," which is now on display in Hood River, according to DeAngelo. He said Suri's pieces rotate annually, so "Peer" will probably be replaced with a different piece next year.
Public art installations complement urban renewal
The installation of public art like the creations of Dye and Suri is separate from, but complementary to, the Tigard City Center Development Agency's "downtown revitalization" efforts. Formed after voters approved the formation of an urban renewal district covering much of the downtown area in 2006, the agency oversees redevelopment projects like the new Attwell Off Main apartments and the planned Main Street at Fanno Creek development on land now occupied by an old planing mill.
The agency also administers a facade improvement program, footing half of the bill for downtown-area businesses to overhaul their exteriors; 20 such projects have been completed since 2009, and four new matching grants were awarded to Tigard Cleaners, Kepler's Upholstery, Arellanos Market, and the former Tigard Cycle and Ski last month.
The City Center Development Agency is the City of Tigard's urban renewal agency. The Tigard City Council acts as its board of directors.
"We have a great working relationship with the city," DeAngelo said. But he was also quick to note that the Tigard Downtown Alliance is an entirely separate organization from the city, and its public art program stands alone.
"We believe public art is an enhancement to a walking district," DeAngelo said. "People come out and want to see that stuff. So the city's been a supporter — not financially, but just they love the idea that our alliance is taking a presence in bringing more art downtown for people to enjoy."
Unusual art makes downtown Tigard stand out
Not all of the public art downtown is there through the efforts of the Tigard Downtown Alliance. The City of Tigard is responsible for the large pink blossom sculptures at either end of Main Street, as well as a smaller prototype of the design that is currently on loan to Sherrie's Jewelry Box, 12425 S.W. Main St. The prototype stands outside the storefront — one of the 20 renovated through the city's facade improvement program — next to a metal art piece that actually is on loan through the TDA, "Butterfly" by Sherwood sculptor Jesse Swickard.
What really makes downtown Tigard stand out in DeAngelo's eyes, though, are the glass baskets. Provided by Tigard's own Live Laugh Love Art glassblowing studio, the colorful baskets hang along both sides of Main Street.
"The TDA's part of the Oregon Main Street Network, which is part of the national Main Street Network. And when you say you're from Tigard, they say 'glass baskets instead of flower baskets.' People recognize this as a differentiator for Tigard," DeAngelo said.
Funding for the Tigard Downtown Alliance's public art projects has been provided by private donations as well as grants from the Tigard Chamber of Commerce and the Washington County Visitors Association, DeAngelo said. He added that the alliance has benefited from discounts and special deals offered by several of the artists, studios and manufacturers.
Currently, the alliance is anticipating the installation of a set of artistic poles and cables that will be able to suspend a banner above Main Street south of Burnham Street. Dye is working on that project right now, with installation expected by the end of June. The banners, DeAngelo said, will advertise upcoming events happening in downtown Tigard.
"Has to be a community event — doesn't mean it can't be a for-profit community event," said DeAngelo, listing the Art Walk, Street Fair and Taste of Tigard among the kind of events banners would tout.
Urban renewal measures on May 16 ballot
Even though his nonprofit group's efforts don't depend on the revenue that the City Center Development Agency collects, DeAngelo is a believer in the power of urban renewal. When voters approved urban renewal in downtown Tigard in 2006, the level of property tax collections was capped, effectively freezing the amount that the city and other taxing districts collect from the area around Main Street covered by the urban renewal area. Above that capped level, tax revenue goes to the urban renewal agency — up to $22 million in total until 2026 at the latest — to pay for a voter-approved list of projects.
"The simple fact is if we didn't have an urban renewal (area) down here, you wouldn't see the improvements to downtown that you're recognizing right now — I mean, it's just a fact of life," DeAngelo said.
Urban renewal in Tigard took a major hit when the economy nosedived in the late 2000s. While the economy has recovered, city officials say the urban renewal district is running well behind its initial projections for how much revenue it would take in by 2026. To bolster collections, the City Council approved a ballot measure that would amend the 2006 urban renewal plan by expanding the district to cover seven additional tax lots.
Voters will decide the fate of that measure, as well as another measure to approve an urban renewal plan for the Tigard Triangle to the east of downtown, in the Tuesday, May 16, election.
By Mark Miller
Assistant Editor, The Times