The Astoria Downtown Historic District Association is looking for a new executive director after Sarah Lu Heath took a job with the Columbia-Pacific Economic Development District.
Heath joined the downtown association 4 1/2 years ago, coming from a position with Restore Oregon, a statewide preservation nonprofit. Oregon Main Street, an agency helping with downtown revitalization programs, named her the Main Street Manager of the Year in 2019.
“It was really rewarding to take some of the vision of the organization and have it come to fruition,” she said.
During her tenure, Heath has gained a reputation for helping to shepherd historic preservation and housing projects. She secured facade improvement grants for the Riviera Building housing The Columbian Theater and the Odd Fellows Building that hosts Astoria Arts and Movement Center and several businesses. She helped attract Portland nonprofit Innovative Housing to restore the former Waldorf Hotel, also known as the Merwyn, into 40 new apartments for workforce housing.
Heath said she also took enjoyment from beautification projects long on the downtown association’s docket, such as securing a grant to paint the 13th Street Alley.
“It amazes me that it does still bring a smile to my face every time I walk through there,” she said.
The downtown association’s first two directors were interns with AmeriCorps. Heath replaced Alana Garner, the association’s first salaried director. The association recently took over management of the Astoria Sunday Market and hired Shelby Meyers to oversee the weekly event and other promotions.
Julie Kovatch, the president of the downtown association’s board, said interviews for a new executive director will begin this month, with hopes of having one in place sometime in June.
“Even just in the past year since we’ve had Sarah Lu, we’ve definitely seen more emphasis on historic preservation, and grant writing and trying to support businesses at a higher level,” Kovatch said. “And so the person we’re looking for isn’t just an event planner and organizer for downtown events and memberships. We’re looking for grant-writing skills and management and trying to find creative and new ways of revitalizing and maintaining a unique downtown Astoria. So this is definitely a big position to fill.”
Heath will stay in Astoria and work remotely coordinating programs for the economic development district, which covers Clatsop, Columbia, Tillamook and western Washington counties. She said she is excited to continue working on economic development efforts that will benefit the region, such as master planning at the Port of Astoria and helping develop more affordable housing.
“Col-Pac is pleased to welcome Sarah Lu to our team,” Ayreann Colombo, the executive director of the district, said in a statement. “Her background, skills and professional network in our region will be great assets as we look to grow our organization and strengthen the resources and services we bring to the region and our economic development partners.”