Olympia City Council approves action plan for downtown improvements

The Olympia City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve an action plan for federal grant money that will go toward community improvements.

The council gave the green light for $642,375 worth of economic development activities with Community Development Block Grants. Projects include a small business loan program called the Grow Olympia Fund; a program called Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design; funding for the Downtown Ambassador Program; and funding for isthmus park projects. Councilman Jim Cooper was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

The Grow Olympia Fund, which would receive a $250,000 chunk of the requested funding, would provide seed money for small businesses in downtown Olympia.

"I think of it as the growth engines for revitalizing the downtown economy," Councilman Steve Langer said Tuesday.

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design – also known as CPTED – is set to receive $25,000. The money would go toward facade improvements for dilapidated storefronts, according to city staff reports. Other CPTED priorities include gates for certain alcoves downtown along with replacing dumpster enclosures that currently shield illegal activities from view, the city reports.

"This is a planning tool for helping to clean up our downtown," said Councilwoman Jeannine Roe, who praised downtown liaison Brian Wilson for spearheading the CPTED effort. "It’s going to be a highly visible restoration to our storefronts downtown."

The Downtown Ambassador Program would receive $51,270 to help fund a position with the program’s Clean Team, which focuses on removing litter and graffiti from downtown properties. Lastly, the city will devote up to $126,455 toward a future isthmus park project.

This action plan must be referred to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development by July 15.

In other council news, the council deliberated Tuesday on a proposed study for five potential community parks in Olympia.

Parks Director Paul Simmons said the proposal was inspired by the LBA Woods Park Coalition, a group of residents who are lobbying for a park in southeast Olympia. The council approved a first reading for allocating $60,000 to pursue a feasibility study for park sites at the Bentridge and Trillium properties near LBA Park; Spooner Berry Farm on Yelm Highway; the Cooper Point Road Sundberg gravel pit on the city’s westside; and a park between Lindell and Lister roads in northeast Olympia.

The proposal will return to the council for a second reading at the July 15 meeting.