Monday, September 29, 2014

Local Chiropractor Makes An Appeal Regarding Proposed Development

Above: Local chiropractor John Tanasse stands near the vacant lot he purchased on State Street near downtown Olympia. The nearby historic Bigelow Neighborhood Association is upset with his building’s proposed design on the long vacant lot at 924 State Avenue, saying it is not in keeping with the historic nature of the area. The Association has retained an attorney in the case.

By Janine Unsoeld

Summer has come and gone, the prime season for construction projects in the South Sound. But one project that didn’t happen as planned was the groundbreaking of a business on State Avenue near downtown Olympia.
In a classic case of competing visions for what constitutes smart land use and acceptable urban design strategy, local chiropractor John Tanasse finds himself at odds with those he had hoped would welcome him to the neighborhood.
In an unusually frank, open letter to the community, Tanasse strives to explain the difficulty a recent land use process has had on his family and his business. After sending the letter to the Bigelow Neighborhood Association, Tanasee was informed by the neighborhood’s attorney, Allen Miller, that direct communication with the neighborhood was “unethical.”
Tanasse expressed his ongoing frustration to Little Hollywood, saying, “There’s no way to communicate or continue the conversation with neighbors except through the legal process.”

The city of Olympia will hold an administrative appeal of his case on October 8 at 6:30 p.m., City Hall, 601 4th Avenue East, Room 207. The hearing is open to the public, however, only those who are already parties in the case may speak.
On State Street near Quince and Pear streets, the proposed three story mixed use building would have a 2,931 square foot footprint, which includes the garage, and a 6,970 square foot total with shared parking in the alley and on the north side. The business would be located on the first and half of the second floor, with two residences on the second and third floors.

Tanasse says his proposed building is of a larger scale than the adjacent buildings, but it is modulated into smaller parts that are in proportion to its older, smaller neighbors.

Bigelow neighborhood residents have been upset with the building’s proposed design on the long vacant lot at 924 State Avenue, saying it is not in keeping with standards or the historic nature of the area. Neighbors say that most surrounding buildings were built before 1925, and are gabled, have porches, and have clapboard or shake siding.
State Street, however, is not part of the historic Bigelow neighborhood boundary. It is considered to be a high density corridor by both the City of Olympia and the Thurston Regional Planning Council.

Businesses within view of the Tanasse property include Thurston First Bank, Frost and Company, East Olympia Healing Arts, and the Washington State Lottery. Two businesses, Muffler and Brake Service and the R.L. Ray Violin Shop are located directly across the street from Tanasse’s proposed mixed use home and business. Some of these businesses are in former homes converted to businesses.
The historic Bigelow neighborhood has an eclectic mix of businesses and residences, with a variety in the ages, sizes, and character of the buildings. The building next to the proposed business is about 100 years old, according to the project proposal submitted to the city by Tanasse. While residential in character, it has been transformed into a triplex. A building to the east is a former residence about 70 years old that is also now a business, Morgan James, PLLC Personal Injury Lawyers.

Both buildings are well maintained, but neither has landmark status or is of known significant importance. Some buildings on Olympia Avenue to the north are on historic registers or significant to the history of the Bigelow neighborhood. The closest historically recognized buildings are at Olympia and Pear and at Olympia and Quince Streets.

Olympia's Comprehensive Plan

Olympia's Comprehensive Plan expresses the community's vision and goals and sets policy direction for the next 20 years. An update to the current plan is in its final steps.

Tanasse believes he is talking the talk and, quite literally, Tanasse wants to walk the walk when it comes to the implementation of the current draft of the land use and urban design chapter of the city's plan.

The Plan states what Olympia values: “Olympians value neighborhoods with distinct identities; historic buildings and places; a walkable and comfortable downtown; increased urban green space; locally produced food; and public spaces for citizens in neighborhoods, downtown, and along our shorelines.”
It also states our vision for the future: “a walkable, vibrant city.”

In our conversation about accommodating the future growth of the community, protecting our environment, and increasing urban density to minimize suburban sprawl, Tanasse says these kinds of challenges are not unique to downtown Olympia.

“Our close neighbors in Portland’s Pearl District, Seattle’s Belltown, and Tacoma’s downtown have all met these challenges in similar ways and have effectively revitalized their urban areas....People moved in, not out. They work, reside, play, eat, entertain, bank, and shop within the city. Vancouver B.C. sets the standard in this regard. This is what makes for thriving cities and towns.”

“I care about the city….Putting my vision of the community’s Comprehensive Plan is the direction we need to be moving. I want a robust, thriving downtown. Any thriving municipality has to have high density, especially along busy corridors. I wanted to have a small lot and maximize the footprint intentionally. As a minimalist project, it’s a mixed use building. I want to be part of the solution….”

Tanasse, who grew up in Seattle and is one of nine children, has lived in the South Sound area for 46 years. Tanasse and his wife have three children aged 11, 13, and 18, all of whom anticipate living in the mixed use building along with his elderly parents.
“….The building will be eco-friendly, reduce our energy usage to a fraction of the current three separate locations that we now occupy. We will cut our family living area in half, and total roof area by three….I want to downsize now. And why wouldn’t I want an elevator in my house? I have disabled friends and my father has Parkinson’s and is in a wheelchair….I want to stay here until I crumble, but no one wants to live where their ideas or projects aren’t welcome. It’s hard to stick around, pull up your sleeves and do something….”

Neighbors Saw Red

Tanasse admits he jumped into the project underestimating the extent of the neighborhood backlash. He also expressed frustration with the City of Olympia’s development process.
“My first several trips to the city were about what I planned on doing. I had an idea of what I wanted to do and I was very clear about my square foot needs…I said, ‘Is this possible in this lot?’ I’m not a developer, but I carefully reviewed the codes myself and I was continually reassured that what I intended was possible….now, they want me to put gables on it. That means space that has intended use goes away.”

Under “New Construction-Infill Buildings” for historic buildings, guidelines state that new buildings should be compatible with adjacent buildings in terms of height, materials, set back, width, scale and proportions, and roof form.

While Tanasse’s original vision for the modern building would have it painted bright red, Tanasse has responded to the recommendations of the city’s Design Review board which governs standards.

Now, portions of the building on the east and west sides that bump out will have cedar siding, the same material as on the recessed front of the building. Each of these elevations will have a large portion that is cedar. The primary color of the flat panels will be "cool marine green" and the cedar siding will have a light "cape cod" finish.

“The project touches the intersection of commercial and residential. I get everyone’s frustration – I admire that they are passionate about their neighborhood and want to shape it as they see fit – that’s to be commended….It’s about a big difference in vision….” says Tanasse.

Above: Tanasse Chiropractic is currently at 1303 4th Avenue East, directly across the street from the offices of The Olympian newspaper, in a former home built in 1889. Upon purchase of the building 14 years ago, John Tanasse says his family invested in its restoration efforts including rot removal, jacking the south end up six inches, restoration and repair of the original fir floors which were covered by liquid nails and industrial carpet, and tilted up the original concrete retaining wall along 4th Avenue. The building is also sporting a fresh new paint job and garage roof rebuild.

An Appeal to Drop the Appeal
Tanasse’s open letter, titled An Appeal to Drop the Appeal, is below:

Dear Bigelow Neighborhood,
We are writing to reiterate the awkward position in which we find ourselves. From the outset of this project, we have been open with the City of Olympia Community Planning and Development, the governing body for construction and development within the City of Olympia, about our intentions, project scope, and design for this location to accomplish what we set out to create, to remain consistent with the city’s mission, and to avoid issues that would cause potential obstacles during the process. Because we are a family and a small business, and not developers, we counted on the city's process, perhaps naively, to help guide the way. Not once during the process were we told we would need to go through a Bigelow building application process, nor a Bigelow Neighborhood design review. We also were not informed that gables would be required for project approval. If that had been the case and we were able to understand the level of neighborhood disapproval we could have and would have chosen NOT to purchase the property nor initiate the process.  We would simply have chosen to move on.

Unfortunately, this was not the case, and we find ourselves heaps of resources into this, not wanting to be here, feeling trapped by the city, and held hostage by the neighborhood with no way out but to walk away with missed opportunity for all parties involved. We scratch our heads trying to understand how we got here, and why it is possible that a neighborhood could, and would hijack such a lengthy, painful, and costly process for a family, in the name of sameness on an avenue of divergent architectural character. We find difficulty identifying the relevance of this position at this critical juncture of civic need.
We never expected much of a welcome from an avenue scarce of permanent residents. We also didn't expect to be blasted by the residents to the north. We were disheartened by private and public attacks in neighborhood meetings, editorials, and letters to the city. We were again saddened by the neighborhood's decision to appeal our project despite our efforts to make meaningful design changes. This sadness was further deepened by an invitation to attend a neighborhood block party, with two fresh pies in hand, only to meet a frosty welcome by some and a table of Tanasse Legal Fund envelopes and paraphernalia. Clearly, welcome is not in the cards as we oddly find ourselves begging to move our family to State Avenue.

Mr. Elder stated at the first public meeting, “The Tanasses will do what’s best for the Tanasses.”  I can only respond to him and the entire neighborhood that moving to State Ave. isn't entirely self-serving. Ask our children who had no interest in leaving Holliday Hills. Ask our friends who think we’re nuts! It has taken thoughtful consideration and a fair amount of courage to consider moving our family to State Avenue given the current condition of downtown.  I ask Mr. Elder the same. “Given your action of appealing our project, are you acting in the best interest of this town? “ You also mentioned at the first meeting that the Bigelow Neighborhood was a little like Disneyland. You feel transported to a different place. As we recall, Disney’s motto is that it is the friendliest place on Earth. With the exception of few kind and supportive souls (thank you), this has eluded us in your neighborhood, as you confirmed this in conversation as identifying yourself and members of your neighborhood as being “prickly.” Do you feel this is an identity that must be upheld at the cost of good, healthy city development? Who does this serve?
By deciding to build on State, we felt we could accomplish goals individually and collectively. We wanted to create a more appropriate space for our family business not far away. We wanted to participate in a new direction of development for family, multi-generational, and multi-use living that seemed intelligent, efficient, cost effective, and important for municipal vitality, preservation of open spaces, and prevention of sprawl. We wished to use our creative, financial, and human resources to participate in improving Olympia by being a part of downtown in all of the ways that this implies. We have felt an ongoing responsibility to contribute to solutions of problems our community faces. Ironically, we find ourselves the problem of this community. We are sleepless and tired which we assume is a strategic goal shared by the legal team in the absence of substantive legal grounds for this action.

This has brought forth a whole host of additional questions we have for Bigelow Neighborhood residents. We hope you will consider them thoughtfully.
What are you afraid of? Why has this lot been vacant for so long? Why has it been for sale on many occasions for long periods of time?  Why, if you covet the character of your neighborhood would you not secure it to protect your interests? Are we not the first family who has been held hostage? Why do you feel all the houses in the area need to look the same? Given there is so much architectural variety and flat roofs within a stone’s throw, why is it our building you insist have gables? What is so wrong with a town whose vision is to develop along commercial corridors, especially along a road that sees 25,000 cars per day? Do you feel justified in obstructing any development that fails to meet your aesthetic taste and opinion when there are no legal encumbrances that provide provisions for doing so? If so, do you believe this to be good for this city, or, good only for this neighborhood? If our building was two stories with a gable roof, would it not be just as tall with wasted attic space, blocking views from the same sections of sidewalk? Do you feel you are entitled to views of the Capitol building through vacant lots and commercial corridors? Do you not care more about the character of your neighbor than their difference in taste? If you are so adamant about our building looking the same, are you as adamant that we are the same, politically, religiously, and ideologically?  Do you believe that someone more foolish than us will want to build a single family residence on 924 State Ave. when permitting, studies, design, engineering, and impact fees cost well over 100K before a single shovel breaks ground? If so, do you believe this person would want to spend the 100K to develop on 924 State Ave. with the constant barrage of graffiti, hypodermic needles, human feces, and vandalism (all of which we have endured at 1303 4th Ave.)? Do you believe they will want you to design it? Why do you have such an ax to grind with the city? Are you really going to use us as a wedge between the city and the 20 year comprehensive plan that intelligently has the health of the entire city in mind and is based on thousands of man hours of study, thoughtful consideration, debate, and success elsewhere? Did you really mean to hire legal counsel to dump enough mud on our project in the hopes of making us go away?  Do you really take pride in being “prickly”? Do you understand that there were no permanent residents of State Ave. present at any of the public meetings regarding this project? Do you recall that we are a family, with children, parents, and grandparents, like you? Do you recall, we are already fellow neighbors from three blocks away, choosing to become permanent residents on State Ave, in a time of dire city need for more residents willing to shop, eat, play, and help out? Did you know there is a heroin epidemic in this town?  Did you know that violent crime is up many fold in this town over the last ten years?  Are you really going to make us beg to move to State Avenue? Do you realize that we already feel a bit vulnerable?

We have admired and appreciated the Bigelow Neighborhood and all of the care that has gone into it by those who live there. We have wrongly assumed by the eclectic appearance of State Ave. that our activity would have minimal impact on Bigelow Neighborhood residents. We apologize the process, as it is, excludes early public input. We did consult Heritage Commission members regarding the historical significance of properties on either side, and did ask for guidance regarding our modern intentions. The response we received from multiple members was that one honored historical design and character.
MORE by building a distinctly modern structure than by constructing a new building that mimics historical design. 

We have heard you during the public meetings and we have attempted to make meaningful changes and concessions including color change, additional modulation, privacy railing and screening along the alley side, and additional cedar siding to soften the contrast. Clearly, we have divergent visions for OUR project, and perhaps for city direction. We would like to remind you, we rolled the dice after careful feasibility review and purchased the parcel, which sat for years. Therefore, we will ultimately decide its size, appearance, and spirit, within the code requirements and zoning allowed. We have sincerely considered your input in ways that would maintain minimum project demands.
As such, we are asking you to immediately stop harassing our family. We ask you also to stop bullying our project. And, we kindly request that you withdraw the appeal so that we can all move on and participate in more meaningful ways.

John and Tiffany Tanasse

Saturday, September 27, 2014

25th Nisqually Watershed Festival

Above: Cate Bellanca staffed a community information table for the Olympia Coalition for Ecosystem Preservation at the Nisqually Watershed Festival today.
Bellanca said she joined the three month old organization to help save the Great Blue Heron rookery endangered by a proposed development in her northwest Olympia neighborhood, and said she recently spent five hours gathering signatures on a petition to help save the rookery. For more information, go to
By Janine Unsoeld

Starting as a glacier on Mt. Rainier, the Nisqually River flows 78 miles down the Nisqually River valley to meet Puget Sound. The freshwater of the Nisqually River mixes with the saltwater of Puget Sound and creates one of Washington’s largest undisturbed estuaries. The word “Nisqually” means “river of grasses,” or “flowing grasses.”
Located eight miles east of Olympia, this area, a former dairy farm and traditional land of the Nisqually Indian tribe, is now a spectacular national wildlife refuge. Every visit is different and provides rich learning opportunities and experiences.
A place of tranquility, September and October is an exciting time at Nisqually. Migrating waterfowl and wintering songbirds arrive. The entire food chain can be witnessed as peregrine falcons and American kestrels will also arrive, and feed on wintering birds. Bald eagles will hunt waterfowl flocks. Identifying species, watching behaviors and camouflaged activities, hearing songs and calls, and witnessing territorial movements is truly a treat.
Now in its 25th year, the Nisqually Watershed Festival today featured plenty of educational, hands-on activities, music, and of course, the opportunity to appreciate the history and environmental beauty of the Nisqually watershed. Today is also National Estuaries Day, established in 1988 as part of Coast Weeks.
Several hundred people parked at nearby River Ridge High School to take school bus shuttles to the festival.

Above: At the festival, Finn the Fish never disappoints, welcoming children small enough to explore the wonders featured inside. 
Above: A mother and son created a beaded salmon life cycle keychain. Each bead represents a part of the cycle: the first bead, a red bead, represents a redd, a salmon nest where salmon lay their eggs.
Above: The Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. One always comes home refreshed, flowing in mind and spirit. 
 For more information, go to

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

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 To inquire about providing foster care for Bullet, contact

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 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 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 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 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

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 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

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
For past stories about West Central Park and to see pictures from last year's June Jubilee, go to and type key words into the search button.
For more about the history of West Central Park, go to;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.