Marcus Larson/News-Register##Former Mayor Ed Gormley and downtown manager Cassie Sollars receive the Great American Places award for Third Street from American Planners Association board member Brian Campbell.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Former Mayor Ed Gormley and downtown manager Cassie Sollars receive the Great American Places award for Third Street from American Planners Association board member Brian Campbell.
By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Third Street honored in ceremony

In fact, almost everyone gathered at McMinnville Civic Hall had played some part in downtown revitalization. ‘You are the engine that makes this community work,” McMinnville Downtown Association Manager Cassie Sollars told them.

Moments earlier, Sollars and former longtime Mayor Ed Gormley accepted the award from Brian Campbell, a member of the APA board. 

Campbell worked as a certified city planner in Oregon for 38 years. Recently retired, the Portland man is a volunteer member of the APA board.

He presented the award because he lives nearby. But he said he was happy to be the presenter because he loves McMinnville and visits often.

“What they’ve done here is what planners always strive to do: Create a tight community feel, a wonderful place to walk, shop and meet your neighbors,” he said. “It’s a true small-town experience within a larger city.”

In presenting the award, he noted Third Street’s variety of uses, visitors of all ages, streetscape, numerous activities and historic preservation efforts. Like other Great American Places, it meets “the gold standards of having a sense of a community place,” he said.

Like Sollars, current Mayor Rick Olson said Third Street’s honor reflects the efforts of many people. And he said News-Register publisher Jeb Bladine had pointed out that the planning and improving stretches back many years, even predating the formation of the MDA in the mid-1980s.

Olson called Third Street the result of “a 30-year continuing effort to maintain and enhance downtown as a commercial, cultural and business hub of McMinnville.”

The mayor said he expects that to continue over the next decades, as McMinnville revitalizes the Northwest Gateway and Alpine Avenue areas to “extend the appeal of downtown for several blocks.”

Gormley, Olson’s predecessor as mayor, said preserving Third Street has always been important to him.

Not long after he was appointed to the planning commission, a decade before becoming mayor, he learned that “cities that lose their core, their heart, die.” Later, he heard another worrying phrase, “mobility erodes community.” 

“This award speaks to how well we’ve preserved out core,” he said. “It’s a symbol of the good things we’ve done in this community.”

Campbell, the APA representative, strolled down Third and picked up a cup of coffee prior to the presentation.

As he waited for the ceremony to start, he said he has visited other cities who’ve received street or neighborhood awards. Like McMinnville, he said, they are always “clearly deserving.” 

Places like that appeal to visitors, he said, and hearing about the awards may bring in more tourists. But that’s really not what the APA intends when it chooses Great American Places such as Third Street.

“What we care about is that it’s a great place to live,” he said. “We care that the community is enriched because of places like this.” 

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