Sparkly sidewalk will include poetry

Staff writerMarch 31, 2013 

A $2.6 million project could extend an existing sidewalk on West Bay Drive from north of Brawne Avenue to the Smyth Landing condominiums later this year. But it won’t be an ordinary sidewalk project.

Three poems will be embedded in three adjoining retaining walls with a stamped wood texture, under a $10,000 plan the Olympia City Council approved last week. If enough money is left, additional poems could be stamped into the sidewalk, according to a city staff report.

And the sidewalk itself may not just be concrete but “sparklecrete,” concrete with a silica additive.

“These are small projects designed to encourage and enhance the pedestrian walking experience,” said Stephanie Johnson, city arts and events program manager.

Sidewalk projects are paid for from the city’s successful 2004 Parks and Pathways measure, which raised private utility taxes 3 percent to generate about $2.9 million per year. The West Bay sidewalk extension, about 1,560 linear feet, will bring a walking path nearly to Schneider Hill Road Northwest.

Work could begin in September and finish in December, but the work may push into next year, City Engineer Fran Eide said. Periodic lane closures, traffic delays and construction noise will occur once construction gets started.

Now the city is incorporating art into the design, a process it began when it chose artist Carolyn Law in 2005 to design the artwork on three sidewalk projects: the West Bay project, at Eastside Street and 22nd Avenue, and on San Francisco Avenue. The San Francisco Avenue project was completed in 2010, and Eide said the Eastside project will start next year.

For the West Bay project, Law will work with renowned poet Lucia Perillo, who lives up the hill from West Bay. Perillo plans to translate and rework poems by Issa, a 16th-century Japanese poet.

The council voted 6-1 to authorize the public art in the project, with Councilwoman Karen Rogers the lone no vote. She objected to using sales tax dollars to fund the project, a tax she said is regressive. Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 @MattBatcheldor

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