A divided Olympia City Council approved a request Tuesday to the state Legislature for funding to help buy the vacant nine-story tower on the downtown isthmus.
The council voted 4-3 to submit the request for money in the state capital budget. The request seeks $5 million to make an attempt to buy and demolish the Capital Center Building, which is privately owned.
The request would also devote some of the money toward protective waterfront barriers ("bulkheads") at Percival Landing as well as repairing a trail along Olympia Avenue and Marine Drive.
Vacant since 2006, the Capital Center Building has been an ongoing source of controversy in the city, with some saying the building should be razed to make room for a new park.
Tuesday’s discussion over the funding request got contentious as council members disagreed about whether the city was taking too big of a risk.
"That building is a drag on our economy and our community’s ability to move forward," said Mayor Pro Tem Nathaniel Jones in justifying the funding request. "There is community interest in bringing that building down."
Councilwoman Julie Hankins opposed the additional funding for the Capital Center Building because the city has no plan in place and would be unable to cover the rest of the projected purchase cost of $18 million. She added other projects in the funding request can be addressed immediately.
"We’re setting ourselves up for failure," Hankins said.
Mayor Stephen Buxbaum noted there was no guarantee the city would get the funding. He said he prefers a public-private partnership to address the Capital Center Building’s condition.
The council’s Tuesday study session included a segment on the proposed Community Renewal Area, which would grant the city powers to address dilapidated properties in downtown Olympia through public-private partnerships.
The council will hold a public hearing at its Tuesday meeting regarding a proposed resolution for the CRA. The public may comment on the resolution, which would authorize the city manager to pursue potential projects with downtown property owners and developers.