Olympia's Parking & Business Improvement Area (PBIA) is contemplating partnering with the city's economic development department to reopen and use the Artesian Commons Park, which was shut down in 2018.
Strategic project manager Amy Buckler, who also serves as PBIA's staff liaison, suggested the partnership during the discussion on the 2023 work plan at the PBIA meeting on Wednesday, January 4.
"We have heard from other stakeholders that they would like the Artesian Commons to reopen to provide some public benefit for downtown and not have it be a vacant space behind a fence," Buckler explained.
The city closed about 90 percent of Artesian Commons Park indefinitely in 2018, citing safety issues. The city fenced off the artesian water well, leaving it accessible from the alley behind the park, between Fourth and Fifth Avenues.
Buckler said that the Creative District is looking at giving priority to artists a place to sell their wares and a space for people to congregate for events.
"[Economic Development director] Mike Reid and I asked the city council for $75,000 to marry those two ideas," Buckler said, adding they would put out a request for proposals (RFP) from organizations that could provide a vision and an implementation plan.
Buckler said the PBIA could contribute its $45,000 allotted fund for the special downtown project.
"[The fund] could be used for physical improvements to the space like, for example, putting a covering over the area with some lights or enter a contract with an organization to manage the space for a year or two," remarked Buckler.
For this project, the PBIA's role is to identify a project and potential partner and provide direction to staff regarding implementation.
The staff also requested PBIA members to serve on the Request for Proposal (RFP) review and selection committees.
Most PBIA members expressed interest in the partnership and the project.
"It is about time we bring it back. It has been sitting empty and useless for too long," PBIA vice chair Jacob David commented. He volunteered to serve on the review or selection committee.
Anne Gavzer inquired about the possibility of taking down the fence at the Artesian Commons.
Buckler said the fence would only be taken down once they have a new plan for the area. "The fence that's there now is pretty unattractive. But we might want to figure out a way to secure the space which isn't being used."
She said the vision is not keeping the area open all day, every day. It would only be open for events that will be contracted with another organization to manage.