Olympia council plots course for 2014

Council members agree that identifying and invigorating blighted areas is one major goal

ahobbs@theolympian.comJanuary 12, 2014 

Downtown revitalization, economic development and communication are among the top priorities for the Olympia City Council in 2014.

The council had its annual retreat all day Friday and Saturday at the Northeast Fire Station 04 on Stoll Road. All seven council members attended, along with city staff.

The retreat was intended for discussion of accomplishments from the previous year and to establish goals for 2014. No binding decisions were made; the council is expected to approve measures or initiatives as consent agenda items during regularly scheduled meetings Tuesdays at City Hall.

One priority for the council in 2014 is to establish a Community Renewal Area, or CRA. The city had commissioned a feasibility study in 2013 to explore the benefits of a CRA.

A CRA can expand Olympia’s ability to work with private developers on city-owned property. The area would also identify blighted portions of the city that qualify for improvement projects.

One blighted area is the isthmus, a strip of land between Capitol Lake and West Bay. The city owns roughly 31/2 acres on the site and plans to demolish dilapidated structures as part of a long-term plan to build a park. No redevelopment plan has been established yet, but the council wants to have workshops and collaborate with local property owners on potential designs.

The city intends to create a downtown master plan this year that further solidifies a vision and objectives. The CRA is one tool in the bigger picture of revitalizing downtown Olympia.

Another persistent theme during the retreat was improving communication. City Council members repeatedly stressed the need for “telling our story” by reaching out to neighborhood associations and the public.

Council members also touted the city’s Budget 365 program as a success story worth building on in 2014. Budget 365 was designed to educate and engage the public in the decision-making process.

On that theme, the council vowed to strengthen relationships with organizations such as the Olympia Downtown Association, the Downtown Neighborhood Association and social service providers. The goal is to cultivate a shared vision for improving downtown Olympia as a place to live, work and play.

The retreat was conducted by Kendra Dahlen of The Athena Group, a local consulting firm.

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869 ahobbs@theolympian.com

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