Camas may be on the small side — it has a population of just over 27,000 — but it’s made a big commitment to revitalize its downtown while paying homage to its historic past.

The town's history starts with the construction of a paper mill in 1883. The mill, which is still operating today, became the heart of a bustling downtown full of shops, jewelry stores, restaurants, hotels and an opera house. But the 2008 recession hit Camas hard, and by 2009, its downtown area had a business vacancy rate of about 60%. Enter the Downtown Camas Association (DCA), which sprang into action later that year, orchestrating a “Mill Town Renaissance” designed to bring life back to the city center.

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People sitting outside a cafe with trees and flowers
Downtown Camas

Today, the tree-lined streets of downtown Camas form a vibrant, walkable community that’s teeming with life. You can find locals dining outdoors at Natalia’s Cafe, an old school diner famous for its home-cooked breakfast, sipping merlot at Camas Cellars and perusing the ever-changing art at the Attic Gallery.

All the while, the city has worked hard to preserve treasured historic buildings that might otherwise have disappeared. Public and private investments led to much-needed renovations of the Granada Theater (now the Liberty Theater), the Camas Hotel and the building that now houses Natalia’s cafe. The city’s preservation efforts recently caught the attention of Main Street America, which named Camas a semi-finalist for its 2024 Great American Main Street Award.

Outdoor market in Camas, Washington
Downtown Camas

A top-notch downtown isn’t the only thing Camas has to offer. Job growth in the city is strong, and so are its schools. (Students score nearly 19% higher than the state average in reading skills and almost 20% higher in math skills, according to data provided by SchoolDigger.)

And that vacancy rate? It’s down to less than 1%.