Sunday, June 29, 2014

Paws-itively Precious Pet Paw-Looza


Above: Two kittens born to a feral mother are checked out by staff with the West Olympia Pet Hospital at today's Pet Paw-Looza event at The Pet Works in downtown Olympia.
By Janine Unsoeld
www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com

The Pet Works, a new pet and pet supply business located at the corner of 4th and Adams in downtown Olympia, was bustling today with even more ooh’s and aah’s than usual as it hosted a Pet Paw-Looza, complete with free pet health exams, dog washes, pet nail clippings, and more.
Owners Eric and Rebecca Smith say they have seen continual, weekly growth in their business since opening a couple months ago.

“We groomed 119 dogs last month, we’ve expanded our product lines, like adding Avo Derm dog food, we just got parakeets in yesterday, and have over 100 species of fresh and brackish water fish now,” says Eric. Eric is pleased with the work of Zeigler’s Welding and Olympia Powder Coating for building and painting their new fish stands.
Eric says rabbits and lots of other critters are coming, as well as salt water fish.

Above: A Cuban Knight Anole kept a watchful eye on the action at The Pet Works today.
Today, Pet Paw-Looza provided space for a variety of local animal related services to offer their information. Volunteers with Thurston County’s Animal Services offered a variety of adoption and animal resource information, including a list of much-appreciated needs for the shelter. Most needed is quality kitten, cat and dog food (first ingredient not corn and no red dye), milk replacement for kittens, cat litter and boxes for foster homes, critter bedding, hand towels, gift cards, and much more.
Dogs on Deployment volunteers were also on hand. Dogs on Deployment is a 501(c) non-profit which promotes responsible pet ownership and provides an online network for military members nationwide to search for volunteers to help their pets during their service commitments.

Amy Evans of Lacey says she started to volunteer locally for Dogs on Deployment when her pre-school daughter kept asking where her friends were going. Her friends’ parents were in the military, and Evans discovered that they had animals that were being left behind.
“I wanted to do something to help,” she said.

Today, Steve Hoag of Puyallup came down to Pet Paw-Looza and show off his two year old pitbull, Bullet. Hoag says he will be away for military police training starting in late July and is looking for someone to take Bullet while he’s gone for two months.
“He’s great with kids, older people, everyone but cats. He’s super intelligent and mild mannered – you know, pit bulls are not aggressive unless trained to be. He’s very easy going,” says Hoag. Hoag says he got Bullet from an animal shelter in Pennsylvania one and a half years ago.

“He’s kennel-trained, and came 3,000 miles cross country with me….” he says, as Bullet gets excited about a potato-based pig ear given to him by Laura, a Pet Works staff member who just gave him a bath.
Above: Bullet gets special treatment today at The Pet Works.
 
To find out more about Dogs on Deployment, go to www.dogsondeployment.org. To inquire about providing foster care for Bullet, contact wa-olympia@dogsondeployment.org.

Meanwhile, Dr. Nathaniel Stewart, DVM with the West Olympia Pet Hospital, and staff offered free pet wellness checks, seeing plenty of adorable cats, dogs, puppies and kittens.
Dogs of another kind – hot dogs – with chips and soda were provided by South Bay BBQ.

“A lot of local effort has been involved in all phases of our business and new people are coming in every day,” says Eric Smith.
For more information about The Pet Works, go to www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com and use the search button to type in key words.

Above: The Pet Works at 407 4th Avenue in downtown Olympia has seen continual growth nearly every week since its opening just over two months ago.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Part Three: Fast-Tracking a Vision for Downtown Olympia under a Community Renewal Area Plan


Above: Kris Goddard (standing), Olympia city councilmember Julie Hankins, and city consultant Scott Fregonese create their vision of downtown Olympia at an urban design workshop held on April 5. Their vision transformed the Capitol Center Building block into a park, deleted part of Water Street, and established an electric trolley around the perimeter of the area.
 
by Janine Unsoeld

An active visioning process for downtown Olympia is well underway and almost nobody knows about it. The results of this vision for downtown Olympia could seriously influence the built environment of downtown Olympia.

Another meeting of the city's Community and Economic Revitalization Committee (CERC) and its citizen advisory committee met tonight to discuss the financial assumptions of the scenarios they created in past workshops.

The consultants, on speaker phone, presented the information to the group via computer, making tiny spreadsheet numbers hard to see and the conversation hard to hear. Citing known and estimated rent and development costs, the numbers were admittedly rough - so rough that an open house previously discussed to possibly be held in July to involve the public in understanding these design scenarios will not occur.

“As we get into specific scenarios, there will be specific numbers...which will lead to a higher quality public process,” said Mayor Stephen Buxbaum.

Councilmembers Roe and Selby observed the meeting, along with several members of the public, but both left early. About 10 members of the 30 member advisory committee were in attendance.

Citizens are still not being invited to ask questions or comment on the information presented at the meetings.

Design Workshop Results

The city's consultants reviewed the results of the workshops to create three scenarios called the Base Case, the Central Park design, and the Green Connections design. They shared these results and scenario mock-ups with the city's Community and Economic Revitalization Committee (CERC) and their advisory committee on May 15.

At that meeting, John Fregonese said that the design workshop results showed that each table supported redevelopment of the Olympia Yacht Club parking lot, included a mix of uses on city-owned properties, and connected and extended Percival Landing.

The majority of table groups demolished the Capitol Center Building, better known as the nine story Mistake on the Lake, and redeveloped the ImageSource building, formerly known as the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant.

There were notable differences in opinion on the location of park land, the mix of uses (i.e. turning the nine story Capitol Center Building into a hotel vs. a library or mixed use building), and adherence to current height limit restrictions.

Members of the citizen advisory group discussed needing more financial information attached to each scenario.

In response for tonight's meeting, the consultants chose to examine four parcels: the Olympia Yacht Club parking lot, the Capitol Center building parcel, the buildings east of Heritage Park, and the city owned properties and the building currently occupied by ImageSource.

Consultants estimated development costs associated with demolition, site preparation, surface and structured parking, park development, streetscape improvements, hard costs such as pilings, vacancy rates, and more.

Some citizen advisory committee members, like Mike Reid of the Port of Olympia, appeared eager to sink their teeth into real numbers, but that enthusiasm quickly dissipated as questions arose about the viability of the numbers and financial feasibility gaps presented in each design model area and approach.

In short, the numbers were soft, but consultant Loreli Juntunen said that it appeared that a remodeled area on the property east of Heritage Park is the “place to go for the greatest investment return.” This is the property currently occupied by Traditions Fair Trade and other businesses.   

Concern was expressed by citizen advisory committee member Jerry Reilly, representing the Olympia Capitol Park Foundation, that a purely public option or scenario was missing.

“Is there the market demand to warrant investment? How long will it take to develop it if it's not there? I'm worried about the Capitol Center building being redeveloped. The height is a problem,” he said.

Thera Black, representing the Thurston Regional Planning Council, responded that community visions do not always pencil out and may have to be adjusted.

Mayor Buxbaum agreed. “There's no slack anymore to make reactionary purchases...it isn't 2005, or 1986...we can't make mistakes. We need to make smart investments before we jump into a public process....”

Citizen advisory board member Rachel Newmann questioned whether or not the city should be investing in downtown. Can we afford it? Should we do it?

Since Olympia does not have a united community vision about downtown's appropriate level or area of growth and development, there were several long pauses in the conversation. Finally, Juntunen said that multi-family developments are occurring in Olympia primarily along the edges of its urban growth boundary. In contrast, many other cities, such as Portland and Dallas, are experiencing infilling.

“I bring that up to say...you have to set the stage properly for that to happen. Portland started that in 1970 - you have to make intentional investments to make that happen....” She admitted those were councilmember decisions. Juntunen, a consultant with ECONorthwest, is based in Portland.

Reilly commented, “The option of doing nothing falls under its own weight rather quickly.”  Buxbaum said that the private sector is trying to plug the holes as best they can.

The next meeting of the city's Community and Economic Revitalization Committee is July 21. The next meeting of the committee and its advisory group is August 7.  

Nine Story "Views on Fifth Avenue" Building Confusion

Trying to plug a literally and figuratively leaking nine story, 75,000 square foot investment hole are the owners of the Views on Fifth Avenue at 410 Fifth Avenue.

Two recent, somewhat misleading articles in The Olympian dated June 13 and June 22 caused confusion about the building's status.

According to city staff, there is no actual permit for a hotel at this location, nor did the building's owners receive the current permit on May 27. Just because the developer's goal is to turn the former office building into a hotel does not make it so.

Former city building inspector Tom Hill signed off on the building owner's commercial tenant improvement permit application plans for a structural retrofit on December 3, 2013, which was good for six months. A representative for the owners came in and picked up the permit last month on May 27 because it was going to expire on June 3. Once the permit was picked up, the owners have six months to start work. This permit will stay valid for another six months if they do the work and get an inspection.

The permit on file with the city from October 2010, permit number 10-3309, is the one on record.

“Bottom line is that the permit they received only allows them to proceed with the structural modifications that would allow the building to be converted to a hotel or other residential occupancy at some point in the future. We have not received plans for that conversion yet,” Keith Stahley, director of the city’s Community, Planning and Development department clarified today for Little Hollywood.
Above: The nine story Capitol Center Building, left, and Traditions Fair Trade on the corner of Fifth and Water Street.
CERC/CAC Participant Perspectives

Councilmember Julie Hankins is a member of the city’s Community and Economic Revitalization Committee (CERC).
Asked last month for her perspective on the downtown visioning process and the design workshops held so far, Councilmember Hankins responded:

“I was extremely happy with the collaboration, cooperation, and compromise that we saw occurring….Since our intent with the workshop was to bring different viewpoints to the table and see if we could provide an opportunity for those differing viewpoints to converse and find areas of consensus, I would say our goal was met.
“The next steps, of course, are to review with the participants their experience and find where we can improve the format.  Like any pilot project, we must start small, carefully review, analyze, and make needed adjustments to our model and then, when we decide to move this forward, consider possible ways of introducing this model to the larger community. We have a ways to go on this journey, but it was so nice to see a real conversation between differing viewpoints occur in our community. These are the types of constructive, inclusive conversations that are going to move this community forward.

“Again, understanding that the real emphasis is on the process, not the end result, the important lessons to take away from our scenario are you must let go of preconceived ideas and wants, and think outside of the box. We were extremely successful in crafting a plan once we let go of our preconceived ideas of where things “had” to go or where we “wanted” them to be and stopped focusing on our individual wants and instead focused on the community’s needs.  Once we did this the sky became the limit for us and our ideas….Our group was great because we had such divergent viewpoints that were able and willing to listen and hear one another. ”

Kris Goddard, the lone “citizen at large” representative to the committee, was also asked to comment how she heard about the downtown visioning process and her interest in serving.
“In May 2013, I learned about the budding citizen advisory committee’s (CAC) formation from Rachel Newmann, who had been appointed to (it) as the Heritage Committee's representative.  I decided to contact Keith Stahley and ask if there might be a place for me in the group. I had gotten to know Keith when I served on a hiring committee for Community, Planning and Development in 2012. His response was yes, and my designation would be ‘citizen-at-large.’
 
“You might wonder why I requested the chance to serve: four women and I formed a grass-roots group which we named 2020 Vision Olympia in the summer of 2008. We were registered with the Secretary of State and had a website…until 2012.  It was the proposed isthmus rezone that fueled our activism. We were strongly opposed to the Tri Vo project. We felt adamant that the Capitol Campus views and Budd Bay/Olympics views needed to be protected.  But our larger mission was to persuade city leadership to engage an urban design team to conduct a community-wide visioning process to help citizens plan downtown Olympia – an urban design team that would then remain engaged for at least the early stages of the plan's economic implementation.

In subsequent years, most of us…and four others who joined our group in 2009…have worked to elect council members who we hoped could be persuaded to embrace this planning and design model for revitalizing the downtown. With little to show for our efforts, 2020 Vision Olympia just sort of faded away over a year ago.

“I have learned from and been heartened by my experience on the CAC thus far.  It's the first opportunity I have had to sit down with local developers, representatives from downtown businesses and representatives from entities such as the Port and the Economic Development Council to hear their visions for potentially revitalizing some of the isthmus properties. Even though we don't always agree, I respect them all because I have learned a lot about their skill-sets, perspectives and bodies of knowledge. I think I finally understand where most of them are coming from. It's also the first time in several years that I have felt hopeful that the blight at the west entrance to our downtown may eventually become part of a larger area that will make Olympia proud and – best case scenario – perhaps trigger a broader downtown transformation.”

For more information about downtown Olympia, the Community Renewal Area plan and process, and past and proposed plans for the isthmus, go to www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com and type key words into the search button.


Above: Another table's design workshop vision on April 5 created a parking garage in front of the Olympia Yacht Club.
 
Editor's Correction: In the May 7, 2014 story, "Fast Tracking a Vision for Downtown Olympia under a Community Renewal Area Plan - Part One", it was Erica Cooper, downtown property manager, not Lori Drummond of Olympia Federal Savings, who presented her table's design at the April 5 design workshop. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

South Sounders Soak Up the Sun


Above: Heritage Park Fountain today in downtown Olympia.
 
By Janine Unsoeld
www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com

South Sounders today enjoyed sunshine and warm weather on the first day of summer.
 
Above: Copper artist Paul Schryver at West Central Park's June Jubilee today.
 
The June Jubilee at West Central Park located on the corner of Harrison and Division Streets hosted music, artisans, children’s crafts, gardening lessons, food, and more. While music by The Hinges played, Paul Schryver of Olympia showed me his copper sculptures. Schryver says he is self-taught and has been creating copper art for 15 years.
 
“My art is always evolving….look at this patina….” he said, as he showed me a piece of 100 year old copper. Although he specializes in recycled copper sculptures, he gets his new copper from Olympia Sheet Metal. He says his salmon look good in groupings along a cedar fence.

Above: Full Moon Radio played at Capital City Pride in Sylvester Park this afternoon. Pride festivities continue tomorrow.

Capital City Pride in downtown Olympia rocked. More music, food, and activities, including the Pride Parade, continues tomorrow. Go to www.CapitalCityPride.net for more information.

Above: A Yeti in downtown Olympia?

A Yeti was spotted downtown while kids enjoyed playing in the Heritage Park Fountain. Suspicions as to the Yeti’s authenticity was questioned, however, upon closer inspection, especially when it paused to pose, Hawaiian shaved ice cone in hand, for a picture with two boys from Wyoming.

Some, however, had to work or attend to the mundane such as lawn mowing and other long-overdue chores. The car washers and detailers at Shur Kleen Car Wash on Harrison Street did a great job today. The business is one of the sponsors of Capital City Pride.

Above: Shur Kleen Car Wash detailers had a big job cleaning this car today.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

DeGarmo’s Pharmacy To Change Hands to Private Park Owner

 
Above: Alicia Elliott and volunteers weed the public sidewalk near West Central Park today. Elliott is expected to sign papers on Tuesday to purchase the nearby DeGarmo's Compounding Pharmacy building.

By Janine Unsoeld
www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com

Alicia Elliott is expected to sign and finalize a contract on Tuesday, June 17th to buy the DeGarmo’s Compounding Pharmacy building near the corner of Harrison and Division on Olympia’s Westside.
The Olympian newspaper reported in a story on June 5 that Richard DeGarmo was retiring after working as a pharmacist for 50 years.

Elliott owns the property next door to DeGarmo’s on the busy, auto-centric corner of Harrison and Division. Now called West Central Park, Elliott saved the property in 2013 from future land use speculation and development to create the privately owned, public use park. The property was most recently proposed to be developed into a 7-Eleven convenience store.
The park, adjacent to two major neighborhoods, is in an area zoned by the city of Olympia as a high density corridor.

While busy weeding the cracks in the public sidewalk today on Division Street, Elliott said she is excited about signing the contract.
“It's an exciting development for West Central Park…the building will be home to a café that will service the park directly and will include a small commercial kitchen that will be able to support food carts hosted by the park. It’s a way to nurture small business - by offering the kitchen, we'll be extending the operating hours of the food trucks….From the beginning, our plan was to have a park café that could help keep the park in the black far into the future. Having the café at DeGarmo's is even better than having a new café on park grounds, because there is paved parking and potential access from Cushing Street built into the pharmacy parking.”

DeGarmo’s also has a restroom, which will be available to patrons of the café. Elliott said she has future plans to build two additional restrooms, one for daytime use, and one 24 hour restroom.
“We have a lot of lunchtime walkers from the Capital Place Retirement Center down the road who need a restroom, and we look forward to providing one for them,” said Elliott.

Without fail, regardless of wind, rain, or snow, drivers and other passersby have witnessed the regular Sunday work parties that have kept the park immaculately groomed throughout the year. Encouraged by Elliott’s weekly updates, between four and fifteen volunteers turn out to help each week.
Plenty of attractive plants, including some edibles, gravel and walkway pavers, picnic tables, and cleverly decorated traffic barriers are testimony to their constant hard work.
Above: Compost bins at the south end of the park feature a view of an edible garden and the property at the corner of Harrison and Division in Olympia.
 
The work party held today was devoted to last minute primping for the park’s June Jubilee, which will be held next Saturday, June 21st from noon to 4:00 p.m. The park will host its second annual summer solstice event with local artisan demonstrations of skills and crafts. The celebration will also include music and food. The public is invited.

To stay up-to-date about future work parties, news, and progress at the park, go to www.aparkforus.org.
For past stories about West Central Park and to see pictures from last year's June Jubilee, go to www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com and type key words into the search button.
For more about the history of West Central Park, go to www.oly-wa.us/greenpages/Article.php?id=2013;05;201305h.



Sunday, May 11, 2014

It's No Mystery...WhoDunIt? Is Closing


Above: Barbara and Oscar Soule make their final selections at WhoDunIt? bookstore in downtown Olympia. The store is closing, and will continue to stay open - but not for too much longer - to reduce its inventory.
 
After nearly 14 years, Linda Dewberry and her bookstore, WhoDunIt?, at 119 East 5th is in the process of closing and reducing its inventory.  For just $10 for a bag of books, you still have a little more time to try a genre you never knew you’d like or find books by your favorite authors.
 
Walking downtown today, I found Rick Stilson, a longtime volunteer for the bookstore, surrounded by bare shelves, helping customers Oscar and Barbara Soule pack up their selections. They ended up with two bags of books that will no doubt keep them occupied for awhile.

All my life, I rarely read fiction. My husband has been a regular patron of WhoDunIt? for years, and it was only recently that I discovered Nevada Barr and her series of adventures with Anna Pigeon, a National Parks ranger.  I was hooked, and scooped up titles at WhoDunIt? like Track of the Cat, The Rope, Firestorm, Blind Descent, Blood Lure, and Borderline. There's a lot more I haven't read.
Who would have thought I’d appreciate quick reading involving a bit of history about our national park system and getting my mind off the latest city or county agendas and controversies?

“Linda is ready to retire – since the economic downturn, things got progressively slower,” said Stilson, who has volunteered for Dewberry and the store since 2006. “She’s got a really big group of faithful volunteers. I come in every Monday. I’ve had a lot of good weeks, and not so busy weeks….” said Stilson. The store featured Northwest mystery authors, used, and new books. 
The store was for sale, but Dewberry could not find a buyer. The space is now for lease. In a note on the door, Dewberry says, “…This is a bittersweet moment for me. I’ve loved being a bookseller downtown, getting to know all of you. I’m looking forward to having more time to spend with family and the friends I’ve made through the store.”

Downtown Olympia still has Orca Books on 4th Avenue and Browser's Bookstore on Capitol Way, but has also recently seen the closing of Fireside Books on Legion Way and Last Word Books on 4th Avenue.
“We have a lot of loyal customers who will miss us,” said Stilson. Stilson said Dewberry will continue her book club at Orca Books.

On this last trip to the store, we discovered a climbing related series by author Clinton McKinzie.
The back cover of Point of Law says, “…For thirty years a father and his sons have shared an addiction to dangerous, extreme climbing in the world’s most beautiful places. This just might be their last dance together…now, with a beautiful renegade environmentalist by his side, Antonio embarks on a perilious journey through the jagged peaks….”

Hmmm….sounds like an adventure!
Above: The familiar owl painted at WhoDunIt? store, located next to the former Wind Up Here toy store.
 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Part Two: Fast Tracking a Vision for Downtown Olympia under a Community Renewal Area Plan


On May 15, there will be another group meeting that will include property owners to “review and fine tune” the results of the April 5 and April 16 workshops.

Above: A birds-eye view of downtown Olympia from West Bay yesterday afternoon. Many of the properties seen above are under review by a potential city Community Renewal Area plan.
 
By Janine Unsoeld

An active visioning process for downtown Olympia is well underway and almost nobody knows about it. The results of this vision for downtown Olympia could seriously influence the built environment of downtown Olympia.
The city council-driven Community and Economic Revitalization Committee (CERC) was created to deal with downtown blight through a community renewal area plan.

A citizen advisory committee was selected to advise the committee. The 30 plus member group has been meeting on a regular basis, fast-tracking a vision for downtown Olympia’s isthmus area, meeting several times in the past couple months.
The public is not scheduled to be included in the process until this coming July, when the community will be invited to comment on just two possible downtown and isthmus-area scenarios.

Above: The ultimate vision of blight - the vacant, nine story Capitol Center Building on 5th Avenue depicted in its own shards of glass on the sidewalk, earlier this spring.

Participant Perspective
 

Local land use and shoreline management attorney Allen Miller is a participant in the city’s citizen advisory committee for developing a potential Community Renewal Area (CRA). He is optimistic about dealing with the monstrosity everyone asks and wonders about: the nine-story Capitol Center Building, best known as The Mistake on the Lake.
“I think we are very close to correcting the greatest land use error in the history of Olympia which was allowing the Capitol Center Building to be built in 1965 in the historic view corridor of the Wilder and White and Olmsted Brothers plans for the State Capitol Campus. The plan for the State Capitol Campus is recognized around the country as the greatest example of City Beautiful Movement architecture in the world.
 
“The current partnership among city, county, state, tribe, and private philanthropy is leading to the purchase of the Capitol Center Building and taking it down.  In 1956, Governor Arthur Langlie and Mayor Amanda Smith came up with a “Fifty Year Plan for Olympia and the Capitol,” which planned the isthmus as a great civic area.  We are finally implementing that plan over 50 years later.” 

Miller provided links to videos about the vision of downtown Olympia without the Capitol Center Building: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sa_vNP54Hg8 and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHqiC5jbuPA
Parking at Capitol Center Building/The Views on 5th Avenue/Mistake on the Lake

While the urban design workshops held on April 5 and April 16 encouraged free thinking, many participants seemed willing to outright ignore actual comprehensive plan values, zoning, and current and ongoing legal restrictions governing our unique shoreline features.
For example, a hard-won July 2013 hearing officer decision definitively precludes use of the parking lot on the Capitol Center block for any purpose related to the building. The decision has a long and complicated history.

In 2011, the City of Olympia issued a notice of land use approval and SEPA determination of non-significance allowing The Views to continue with its conversion of the nine-story Capital Center Building on Fifth Avenue from an office building into a hotel.
(To read these and other isthmus-related stories at www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com – December 2, 2010 and February 16, 2011 type keywords into search button such as “hotel” and “isthmus.”)

Miller successfully represented former Governor Dan Evans and others in two years of litigation that followed, related to the Shoreline Management Act (SMA). The Capitol Center project site actually consists of two different land use parcels involving two parking lots located within 200 feet of Budd Inlet, thus falling under shoreline management regulation. In response to the threat of SMA regulation, building owners elected to detach one parking lot from the site.
Calling it a “classic piecemealing” maneuver, the city hearing examiners and the county’s Superior Court judges saw this as the owner’s way of getting around the constraints the SMA would impose.

The decision by Mark Scheibmeir, City of Olympia hearing examiner, said that the hotel or any commercial use on the project site shall be prohibited from using the adjoining parking lots or any property within the shoreline jurisdiction unless the owner of the property has complied with all applicable permitting requirements of the Shoreline Management Act.
Keep that in mind as you read the next design workshop group visioning process on April 16.

Above: From left to right - Jim Randall, Keith Stahley, Rob Richards, Stuart Drebick, Renee Sundee, and Olympia Mayor Stephen Buxbaum participate at the April 16 urban design workshop.

April 16: Sample Table Discussion/Visioning Process

Another downtown visioning opportunity was offered to the Community Economic Revitalization Committee, citizen advisory committee members and property owners on April 16 in Olympia City Hall chambers to contribute their design vision for downtown Olympia.

This was billed as a make-up session for those who could not attend the workshop on April 5. There were two tables of participants.

One table was composed of Rob Richards, Capital Recovery Center; Stuart Drebick, West Olympia Business Association member, contractor, and downtown property owner; Keith Stahley, city planning manager; Jim Randall, attorney and past president of the West Olympia Business Association; Mayor Stephen Buxbaum; and Renee Sunde of the Thurston County Economic Development Council.
As I did for the April 5 workshop, I listened to the visioning rationale of one full conversation. This table conversation was largely dominated by Drebick, who immediately asked Leonard Bauer, deputy director of the city planning and community development department, at the outset of the workshop, “Are we stuck with 35 feet?”

Bauer responded, “As you look at things, note that it’s a consensus by the group, considering the atmosphere and place that we’re at right now.” 
“So is this something that will really be built or is it pie in the sky? The worse thing that this space can be is a park,” he told his table group.

“Keep in mind, as housing gets built, it will bring people downtown,” said Renee Sundee, referring to the proposed seven story Columbia Heights project.
“I haven’t seen any dirt turned yet,” responded Drebick.

“It’ll get done,” said Buxbaum.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” replied Drebick.
“People stop at Storman’s before they go home…a park is nice during the summer months, but during the winter months, there’s nothing to keep people downtown. If there was a hotel or a small convention center, that would do it. Whether or not that can happen politically is another question,” said Drebick.

“Structured parking someplace is key,” said Stahley.
“The Cherry Street building looks nice, all the parking is inside the building, but they had the height to do it,” said Drebick.

“We’ve estimated that each stall in this area would be $40,000 - $45,000,” said Stahley.
“That’s expensive,” said Drebick.

“It will take the city pencil to make it happen, otherwise it won’t pencil out,” said Drebick.
Discussing the building that Traditions is currently located on Water Street, someone suggested that if it is made housing, we need parking.

“That street is not critical – we could consider two story parking. All those buildings are knockdowns, and we can reorient them,” said Buxbaum.
“If Kolb keeps redeveloping his properties to include housing over the next three to four years, that’s a lot of housing,” mused Drebick.

“Is there demand for it?” someone asked.

“Yes,” said Buxbaum.

Skeptical, Debrick said, “I’ll wait to see them rented.”

“A four story building is economical to build. Beyond that, you get into other issues,” said Drebick.
“In your honest opinion, Mayor, about the Capitol Center Building, are the Bob Jacobs' of the world going to allow it to be built? Hotel or housing, that’s it for me,” said Drebick, loudly.

Former Olympia mayor Bob Jacobs was standing nearby, overseeing the conversation and activities at the other table, composed of Councilmember Julie Hankins; Connie Phegley, owner of Old School Pizza; Paul Knox, executive director of the local United Way; Kevin Stormans, owner of Bayview grocery store; and Leo Rancour, of the Olympia Yacht Club.

Dodging the question, Buxbaum asked Richards, who hadn’t yet spoken, “What do you think?”

“We don’t want to get a neighborhood that’s dead at 6 p.m.,” said Richards.
“I think a boutique hotel could be very appealing. This could be a prime area,” said Sundee, who also did not speak up much.

“If the city openly encouraged it, the hoteliers will come. Right now, it has stink on it,” said Drebick.
Stahley said that in 2007-08, residential was explored for the building, but no exterior balconies could be built on it based on the way it’s constructed.

Moving to the Olympia Yacht Club, it was discussed that the club is interested in getting off the water.
“We could have high-end housing over the Yacht Club, but condos don’t sell in this town – they have a stigma in Olympia for some reason…I don’t know….,” said Drebick.

Stahley introduced the dilemma on Percival Landing.
“Right now, it hangs out there. It’s protection for sea level rise and storm surge. That allows the city to save an incredible amount of money in concrete for a seawall…” Stahley explained that the state Department of Natural Resources leases its land behind Bayview to the Yacht Club.

“They park trailers and stuff there.”
Sundee encouraged a retail, storefront experience along Fourth Avenue.

“Yes, that’s what we want,” said Stahley.
“I’d love to encourage something like that,” said Buxbaum, as he proceeded to place red-colored chips representing retail along the backside of Bayview.

“You mean reorientation?” asked Stahley.
There’s your park,” said Drebick, as he plopped a green colored park chip onto the ImageSource building, formerly the Kentucky Fried Chicken. “That guy said he’s not attached to the building,” Debrick said, referring to building owner Vicktor Zvirzdys.

“Connect Percival Landing, because there’s not a lot of places for people to watch the salmon…I think that’s just dynamite!” said Drebick.
“What about a mid-rise building?” asked Sundee.

“Thirty five feet is not mid-rise,” said Drebick.
Stahley said, “Well, a park needs parking,” and rearranged the red chips.

Drebick, who was still talking about the extension of Percival Landing and being near the water, continued, “It’s good to go smell it, feel life and death….”
Buxbaum put down some green space.

Sharp-eyed Drebick said, “Is that more park?”
Yea,” replied Buxbaum.

Buxbaum started encroaching on the current street between the Capitol Center Building and the Heritage Park fountain block, saying, “Don’t restrict yourselves to the gridlines.”
“It’s very expensive to develop unless you get density,” protested Drebick. “There’s too much bad dirt. The Westside has good dirt.”

Stahley said that back in the 80s it was suggested that Storman’s raise the height of their building.
“They didn’t have a color that says hotel?” Sundee asked Drebick, as he cut up a piece of yellow paper, wrote HOTEL on it, and plopped it down.

Drebick laughed. “Yea, what does that say to you?”
So, using a bit of rock, paper, scissors psychology, Drebick single-handedly converted the nine story Capitol Center Building, aka, the Mistake on the Lake, into a hotel.

And there it sat until time for the evening’s project was drawing to a close, and Buxbaum could stand it no longer.

Above: Stuart Drebick created his vision for a hotel on the isthmus, and there it sat until Mayor Stephen Buxbaum could stand it no longer, and suggested that the building, in some form, be the location for a new library. 
 
The discussion finally turned to the hotel/Mistake on the Lake and a suggestion was made by Buxbaum that the building, in some form, be the location for a new library. The idea was instantly rejected by Drebick.

“People who go to the library are not people with money, to be blunt. Do we not all carry a library in our pockets?” as he pulled out his smartphone.
“The library has some of the best programming in town,” retorted Stahley.

“It’s the only place for a library and it would require a community compromise,” continued Buxbaum. “I can see taking down the building and putting up a four story building…it’s a building past its useful life. It’s dysfunctional.”
“A library isn’t a revenue producer,” said Sundee.

“Where the library is now is underused,” said Buxbaum.
Drebick did not think it belonged downtown.

“A library creates foot traffic – it’s a big plus because it’s a self-supporting facility. Make it a civic center that’s exquisitely beautiful,” said Buxbaum.
“Who pays for it?” someone said.

“A coalition between those who want to get rid of it and those who want a library. It’s a large number of people,” responded Buxbaum.
“OK, well, that’s the politics of this town,” sniffed Drebick.

“If you combine retail and commercial, and some amenities….” someone said.
“I can’t climb on that boat,” said Drebick.

Randall said that the downtown library is creepy.
“What about something like a Powell’s bookstore?” offered Sundee, referring to the awesome Portland shop.

“You have to think of highest and best use, where you’re getting true financial benefit,” said Randall.
“A library gives families three things: someplace to take the kids, a place to go out to eat and shop, get groceries, exercise and entertain, all within the space,” said Buxbaum, motioning to the general area.

“It would take you more than 10 years to pull together a plan for a library,” said Drebick.
“I don’t know,” responded Buxbaum.

Drebick began to estimate the costs to get rid of the building and redevelop it into a library. Estimates started at $20 million.
“That’s conservative,” said Randall.

Discussion ensued about creating the top three floors into condos, with the library underneath.
“I don’t think people would like living above a library,” said Sundee.

Buxbaum explained that the City of White Center created just such a project and that it appears to be a successful model.
Drebick said that he sat on a committee in 1987 for housing and not a lot has changed. “Same issues: Does it pencil? Can you rent it? Will it make money?”

Wrapping up the April 16 workshop, Buxbaum concluded, “There are choices to make, options with very little public investment, explain to the public what a return on investment means, test the feasibility and come up with a range of options worthy of consideration.”
Discussion by the Community and Economic Revitalization Committee

The CERC committee met on April 21 to discuss the results of the two design workshops and figure out next steps.

“Property ownership, financing, developers, and the community - how does this all fit together so it’s achievable? Just because there’s property ownership does not mean there’s development,” began Stahley.
Jones said that out of the isthmus discussions and workshops, sea level rise was not discussed.

“Regarding its impact to the isthmus, I think we need something of a reality check….blowing up bladders, creating berms, I have no idea of the magnitude. Bringing it into the discussions sooner makes sense….putting Percival Landing - millions of dollars - over the water doesn’t make sense,” said Jones.”
Stahley agreed. Discussing the Oyster House, Stahley said that there’s not too much the city can do to protect it.

“It’s one of the most challenging areas, how to protect it.”
Stahley said that addressing the issues of Percival Landing and sea level rise issues are currently underfunded.

Next Steps
Economic feasibility involving fiscal issues, revenues, property taxes, and costs associated with the design workshop ideas is scheduled to be presented to the group in May.

The consultant will soon be distilling the visions created by the eight tables of participants and creating a computer model to refine common themes and areas of disagreement.
On May 15, there will be another group meeting that will include property owners, says Stahley, to “review and fine tune” the results of the April 5 and April 16 workshops.

On May 29, the Community and Economic Revitalization Committee (CERC) will meet to discuss this input and the scenarios developed. Also at the May 29 meeting, the CERC will consider next steps and develop a recommendation for the full city council to consider on June 10.
Next: Part Three: Fast Tracking a Vision for Downtown Olympia under a Community Renewal Area Plan - More Participant Perspectives

Above: Amongst broken glass, graffiti, and discarded toilet paper, two daffodils try their best to keep up appearances outside the vacant Capitol Center Building on 5th Avenue in downtown Olympia earlier this spring.