Artist housing, streets on Olympia City Council agenda

Staff writerApril 20, 2014 

In place of its regular business meeting, the Olympia City Council will hold a special study session beginning at 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

Topics for discussion include the recent Olympia ArtSpace Alliance survey along with “street connectivity” policies for the comprehensive plan.

Released last month, the ArtSpace survey gauged interest for affordable apartments where artists can live and work in downtown Olympia. The ArtSpace Alliance will present its findings to the council at Tuesday’s session and will discuss the city’s possible role in helping the project come to fruition.

The survey shows that downtown Olympia can support up to 52 of these “live-work” units. Supporters say the project coincides with a recent push for more downtown housing and economic development. The alliance will explore potential sites and funding, with a goal of building the project within five years, according to a board member.

“Street connectivity” refers to the practice of linking small streets with larger arterials. The issue surfaced at last week’s meeting in response to a roundabout project at Boulevard Road and 22nd Avenue in southeast Olympia. Construction will start in mid-May, and due to poor street connections in the area, thousands of drivers will need to take lengthy detours to avoid congestion. The downtown area forms a grid that gives drivers multiple options, director of transportation Mark Russell said.

At Tuesday’s study session, the council will consider policy revisions that could improve efficiency and safety in Olympia’s street network. Recommendations by the planning commission include analyzing the effects of proposed street connections and how they relate to traffic patterns, trip lengths and vehicle volumes at nearby intersections.

A connected street grid also improves access for emergency and commercial vehicles, according to city planners.

One example in the works is a proposed extension of Park Drive to Kaiser Road in west Olympia. Park Drive is a dead-end street, and city planners say the new connection will benefit vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians. The council’s next regular meeting will be at 7 p.m. May 6.

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869

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