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Olympia will add lights at Artesian Commons to help improve safety

The Artesian Commons in downtown Olympia was busy on a sunny afternoon Thursday with people socializing and bottling water from the historic artesian well.
The Artesian Commons in downtown Olympia was busy on a sunny afternoon Thursday with people socializing and bottling water from the historic artesian well. The Olympian

Olympia will install lights at the Artesian Commons as part of an ongoing effort to increase safety at the troubled downtown park.

The work begins Monday and is scheduled to be finished by April 9, project manager Kip Summers said. Local contractor Betschart Electric has 45 calendar days to finish the project and will begin cutting asphalt at the park next week.

Total cost for the project is about $27,000, Summers said.

Located at 415 Fourth Ave. E., the 0.2-acre park will remain open from 7 a.m.-10 p.m. during construction. The community can still access free water at the artesian well 24 hours a day.

The park is a popular hangout for the street community, but has drawn criticism over vandalism, smoking and unwanted behaviors since opening in May 2014.

In response, the city launched an Artesian Leadership Committee in 2015. The city has since installed a 4-foot fence, signs with park hours, permanent seats and tables, security cameras and a basketball hoop.

In addition, the park hosts events such as a summer concert series and other live performances.

Lighting is viewed as another way to deter problematic behavior. As part of its Downtown Project, the city has been embracing principles known as Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, commonly referred to as CPTED (pronounced “sep-ted”).

In 2015, the city hired Betschart Electric to install LED lighting fixtures in seven downtown alleys. The alleys were chosen based on crime trends and level of usage, according to the city.

Business owners have been vocal about problems at Artesian Commons. A 2015 survey by the Parking and Business Improvement Area (PBIA) included several comments from downtown merchants about the Artesian Commons:

“Most areas are OK but there are some that are not like the artesian well block.”

“Congregations and activities at the artesian well on 4th Avenue are often aggressive and intimidating to customers and staff.”

“4th Avenue at night is an uncomfortable place to be. Artesian well is also a real trouble spot.”

“Last time I was there, one fellow was using the well as a shower. Bar of soap and all.”

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