I want to congratulate the Olympia City Council members for keeping open minds about private-public development of the isthmus. Public-private developments have worked very well in other places, including the development of the Ruston Way in Tacoma.
My previous career was spent in development and maintenance of parks, so I am no opponent of public open space. At the same time, I know that park budgets are usually first to be slashed in any downturn and parks often underfunded. This isthmus emphasis has already had negative impacts on existing parks throughout the city.
When full grants failed to appear and private donations were not as high as hoped, it was the city’s park budget that was used to pay for most of the city acquisition of the two lots next to the Capitol Center high-rise. Developments scheduled for neighborhood parks throughout the city took second place to isthmus acquisitions. At the same time, the Capitol Center building is still is in private hands and the cost of acquisition and demolition of the building seemingly well beyond the city’s means.
I think that is good that the council is trying to be creative and leverage public dollars. I am very hopeful that Olympia will not compound mistakes by the lake.