Rarely does a week go by without someone voicing concern over Olympia’s downtown area. How come there are so many blighted areas? Why is there no market-based housing downtown? Why do businesses come and go with such regularity? And just who are all those weird people?
Actually, Olympia has a very vibrant and creative downtown. Virtually all of the businesses are locally owned and operated. We are blessedly free from franchise stores that look the same irrespective of location. Plus, the arts are everywhere in evidence, from the Film Society to Harlequin to galleries and, yes, the buskers on the street. Many of us like Olympia just as it is.
However, Olympia will never reach its full potential as long as it is adjacent to an industrial port. We are fated to be like Duwamish, Fife, Ferndale, Calumet, and Hoboken. Can anyone name a vibrant community immediately adjacent to an industrial port? Were the industrial port replaced by our version of Stanley Park, Olympia would be more like Vancouver. We might finally attract a convention hotel.
People spend money to see the fabulous trees of the Pacific Northwest in their natural setting. But not when they are stripped, stacked, and shipped overseas. Eliminating the port would cost some jobs, but many more would be created in the tourist industry. Not to mention the economic opportunities of a revitalized downtown.
It’s time to evaluate the effect the industrial port has on downtown Olympia.