How Child’s Play will Boost Downtown Olympia

by Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty, Inc. on November 15, 2012

As the old saying goes, “success breeds success.”  In commercial real estate development, anchor tenants are hugely important to the success of a project.  They are magnets that bring more shoppers and attract and retain additional tenants.

Anchors can come in many forms.  In the shopping mall world, we see this play out with tenants like REI moving to the Westfield Mall.  In places like downtown, anchors might appear in the forms other than typical retailers.  The Washington Center for the Performing Arts and the Farmers Market are both significant anchors.  In Lacey, the Regional Athletic Complex is a huge draw for the Hawks Prairie area.  Neighboring retailers will tell you they are simply more successful when those places are open for business.

So it is exciting news that after years of planning, the new Hands On Children’s Museum finally opened on Olympia’s Eastbay.  The new facility will bring a huge number of families to the downtown corridor.

It is projected that the Museum will double its already impressive total number of annual visitors.  Having recently toured the new space, our guess is that the number will be even larger than that.  This organization serves an important role.  Not only is it an award winning early learning facility, but it also lends its facility and programming to support other area non-profits in their missions.

However, the benefits don’t stop there.  Economic development officials around the country have long known that when families visit a downtown, business thrives.  What these same professionals recently learned is that children’s museums are some of the lowest cost, highest impact anchors around.  Hotels, restaurants, retail shops, housing, and plenty more, benefit from a children’s museum being sited nearby.   This is one of the many reasons that children’s museums are among the fastest growing cultural organizations in the country.

Ask the community of Normal, Illinois how they have enjoyed and benefited from the expanded children’s museum in its downtown.  Their city was much like ours in terms of size, demographics, and character of its downtown.  It had more potential than results.  Together the leaders of that community came together and invested in the museum.  Once underway, it attracted an impressive array of positive development all around – from local restaurants and businesses, housing and pocket parks to a busy convention center.  Today, the downtown is alive and vibrant.  Potential is now being met, and future progress is real not just fantasy.

With our own museum now open, anchoring a once blighted part of downtown, our community must leverage this great community asset.  The potential is real and proven, and with the museum as a catalyst it can be.  A couple of hundred thousand annual museum visitors will be waiting and eager to support.

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