The problems at the Artesian Commons provide a valuable lesson for Olympia: Good urban design saves money and reduces conflict. A good urban designer with an understanding of the relationship of people and places could have predicted the problems with crime and drug use at the Artesian Commons. Putting a park in a narrow space sheltered by two high walls is a set up for problems. The one-way street on one side and a parking lot on the other, further embolden criminal elements by effectively screening their illegal activity from public view. The CRA is designed as a finance tool to “banish blight” downtown. The City Council should put it to work immediately by addressing the blight and crime along Fourth Avenue between Harlequin Productions and City Hall.
Equally important, Olympia must not make the mistake of failing to consult with an urban designer, so the city does not end up with another well intentioned, but poorly designed investment that fails to accomplish its mission. If Olympia learns the lesson of the value of good urban design from the failure of the Artesian Commons, the $250,000 will be money well-spent. The CRA alone cannot “renew downtown”. Olympia needs the expertise of professional urban designers who understand the relationship of people and places.