Downtown Olympia Housing News

by Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty, Inc. on June 23, 2009

Last night’s decision by the Port of Olympia sets in motion one of the most important opportunities our community has for realizing the goal of more market rate housing in downtown Olympia.

The Port selected Tarragon as the developer for the land surrounding the new Hands On Children’s Museum on East Bay. The vision is to create an area of mixed uses, including office, retail, a hotel and conference center, and residential space. The residential component will help start the city on a path toward meeting its goal of 2,500 units of market rate housing in downtown. Establishing a greater diversity of housing in downtown will help our community in so many ways.

Concentrating more of our growth in downtown will reduce sprawl that occurs even with the Growth Management Act restrictions that exist. Over the next 20 years our population is expected to grow by 128,000 residents. We must get serious about creating greater densities in the urban core if we are to find places for people to live and maintain some of our rural communities.

Another benefit is job retention and creation. A healthy downtown will support existing business, and attract new businesses and tourism, which has the effect of importing dollars to support jobs. Most downtown business owners know that increasing housing and adding a conference center are both vital components to creating a financially sustainable downtown core.

Finally, creating greater densities adds to the diversity of our core, which in turn enriches our community. An excerpt from the book Rebuilt Green¸ the story of the Ecotrust’s efforts in building its headquarters in the Pearl District in Portland, Oregon, captures this sentiment perfectly.

In the preface to the book, the head of Ecotrust, Spencer Beebe, recounts words from one of his board members, Jane Jacobs. She states that “Good things come from evolution, not revolution; from building up new things, not tearing old things down.” Spencer continues that Jane reminded him that “civilizations need farms, forests, and rivers to support dense populations in the cities, and that cities repay the favor by getting lots of heads together to innovate and invent. Whether one’s concern is natural ecosystems or economic systems, density propels evolution.”

With great leadership, our community is on the verge of propelling itself to new heights. Every urban renewal project that occurs around the world starts with a catalyst. Several current projects, LOTT Administration, a public plaza, and the Hands On Children’s Museum, underway at East Bay are the best catalyst for city wide renewal that this community has ever seen. We must make the absolute best of this opportunity.

Click image to enlarge.

LOTT is already underway with its new administrative and educational center downtown. Construction will be complete next year on this new world-class interpretive center that will showcase reclaimed water. This new facility also will house a state of the art cogeneration plant, turning methane gas into power. When complete the new LOTT facility will be a beacon of environmental stewardship and a draw for business and tourism.

LOTT’s neighbor to the east will be the new Hands On Children’s Museum, which does so much to help children and families in our community. Other cities that have achieved successful urban renewal projects did so by locating children’s museums in their downtowns. The new 25,000 square foot facility is the anchor of the East Bay renewal. It will be a draw from more than a quarter of a million visitors to downtown each year.

Along with these two great projects, an outdoor one-acre public plaza will be constructed. This space will give the community another great gathering space on a beautiful peace of property.

The selection of a developer for the remaining property on East Bay is just the first of many steps in the renewal project. The process of filling out the vision for the area starts today. Take the time to get involved and voice your opinion about this vital area.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: