Feb 18, 2007

big plans for the Olympia waterfront

Yesterday my wife and I were wandering about the downtown as we are wont to do. This time, in search of urban hiking footwear (for her), we stopped at The Alpine Experience. As we exited, I looked around at the LOTT wastewater treatment plant, the abandoned gas pump, the rusting rail line, and all the other industrial detritus lining the ugly side of the downtown. "You know," I said to my wife, "I'd bet this is the part of the downtown the city wishes it could take back."

Their do-over starts here.
By late 2009, a new City Hall could stand along the shore of Budd Inlet's East Bay, anchoring a waterfront development that could also feature a hotel, a parking garage, a children's museum and mixed-use buildings.

City Manager Steve Hall will recommend to the City Council on Tuesday that the new City Hall be built at State and Jefferson streets on land now owned by the Port of Olympia.

"One of the things our City Council said is we want to be closer to the core downtown," Hall said. "Essentially, we've settled on the best site for moving City Hall and consolidating our operations."

Project Manager Rick Dougherty said the building, which might have 88,000 square feet and cost at least $25 million, could be finished by late 2009.

The implications are huge, say city leaders, who have kicked around the idea of relocating City Hall for two decades. A new building would consolidate city offices now scattered throughout at least 14 buildings.
Read the whole thing for the details, including projected costs and the (minimal?) problem of contamination cleanup.

Port Commissioner Bob Van Schoorl wants the development to be a gateway to the downtown. From this eastsider's perspective, it would certainly help. Right now it I've got the bus station, the backs of 4th Ave businesses and the vast industrial playground east of the inlet for my morning commute / welcome to downtown.

Another location the city should consider: the Ugly Building across from Capitol Lake and the fountain. It and its neighboring graffiti-stained abominations--tear those suckers down.

Update: And don't forget about Cliff Lee's vision for Griswold's, which is still in the planning stage.

Update II: Olyblog reader stevenl has a plan to deal with the inevitable revolt of the seas:
The best solution for a site? Have the city pull an eminent domain on Ralph's Thriftway and the solid high ground as an HQ.
The city does seem to be on an eminent domain kick these days.


Debate's Biggest Fan said...

As a future entrepreneur, I'm curious to know what kinds of businesses you'd like to see downtown. I agree that some of the more ragged buildings should be taken down and I also agree that the buildings near the bus station could do with some repair. I've always wanted to own a business downtown and have a few ideas rolling around in my head, but what do the people want?

Jim Anderson said...

As I mention in the link added above, I'd like to see more living spaces downtown. I'd love to live there, and I'm sure others would, too--but I'm not 55+, or willing to share housing with starving Evergreen students.

Tacoma, right now, has some fantastic new choices in the downtown near the waterfront. Olympia's leaders should take a trip up I-5 to see the future.

You can never go wrong with another Batdorf franchise.

As for what "the people" want: sounds like a task for an Olympian pollster or an Olyblogger with free time.