Olympia residents gathered around brightly-colored maps Saturday, clutching markers, scissors and tiny photos of buildings.
What looked like a large-scale craft project will help shape the city’s downtown area for years to come, said Amy Buckler, a senior planner with the city. The exercise was an interactive approach to city planning, aimed at having residents give input about their vision for the city’s hub.
“There’s a lot of engagement and exchange happening about downtown,” Buckler said. “We’re in a great place to think about strategies about how we want to move forward in the next five or six years.”
About 100 people attended Saturday’s workshop, held at The Olympia Center. The workshop is the first of several downtown strategy events.
At the next workshop, scheduled for Feb. 20, residents will evaluate alternatives for downtown. Future meetings, which haven’t been scheduled yet, will allow residents to discuss strategies and review ideas about business and developments.
In a year, the city should have a finalized downtown strategy, Buckler said.
Saturday’s meeting was the beginning, a chance for consultants and city staff to gauge what’s important to the community.
Consultant John Owen, of Makers, an architecture, planning and urban design firm, said the goal of the workshop was to learn what people believe are the most important areas of downtown, important areas of growth and what kinds of development are most desired.
People who attended the workshop sat down in groups with large maps of the downtown areas. They jotted down their ideas on the map and stuck photos of the types of buildings they desired — apartment complexes, grocery stores, mixed-use buildings, etc. — onto different lots.
Bill Wilson facilitated discussion at one table, where residents suggested pedestrian-only streets at the intersection of Washington Street and Fifth Avenue. Group members suggested a three-story, mixed-use building on the isthmus and an urban hotel near the Hands On Children’s Museum.
The group focused on making the city “people-oriented.”
“People-oriented means not just houses, but services for people to use,” Wilson said.
He explained that as Olympia’s population increases, there will be more demand for businesses like dry cleaners and grocery stores.
Owen said the information discussed Saturday will be analyzed and shaped into alternatives that residents will discuss at the next workshop.