As a frequent visitor to Olympia I have followed the discussions regarding Capitol Lake and the downtown area with great interest. It is heartening that the Planning Commission wants to look at other cities for ideas. Hopefully they will look beyond the present 19th century, traffic jammed, unfriendly parking situation of Fourth Street and consider the pedestrian and or transit malls that have brought new public life to cities such as Portland and Eugene, Oregon, and particularly Santa Monica, California, even Los Angeles!
Public transit improvements and civic parking structures with ample safe, accessible spaces have been located near theaters, etc., to alleviate the out-dated reliance on curbside parking. These ideas have worked to bring out diverse crowds beyond even the planners’ dreams, alleviating fears of “street people” (our new generation) amongst the squeamish, and making the threat of forced redevelopment (with sterile concrete buildings and vacant lots replacing diverse local stores and cafes that are the life blood of downtown Olympia) totally unnecessary.
While looking toward the future, the city could plan for the inevitable removal of the Capitol Lake dam by widening State Street into a broad, attractive parkway with pedestrian and bike enhancements, tied into a new Fourth Street Bridge, if this is necessary. This could be done with minimal business relocation, which considering the existing vacant lot desert, should not be hard to accomplish. These ideas could combine to be a transformative concept to greatly enhance the many other attractive assets of Olympia.