Olympia Parking garage is a gray elephant

July 7th, 2008 by Ken

They’re at it again, those City of Olympia officials, who have identified a new location for a downtown parking garage.   The place designated for this great honor is the old Mills and Mills Funeral Parlor parking lot on Fifth Avenue.

Apparently the old Department of Transportation site on State is out of the picture – – as is Sylvester Park, which in 1955 was identified as a good location for an underground parking garage by the city.  Only a concerted effort on the part of local residents stopped the destruction of the city’s major park.

Since 1986 the City of Olympia has commissioned five different studies on the need for a parking garage in downtown Olympia.  In 2002 a consultant’s study found that downtown traffic didn’t justify a parking garage, and if one were built it would require about a half million dollars a year of taxpayer subsidy.

I don’t think that traffic in downtown Olympia has increased significantly since 2002 and I suspect the results of that study are still valid.  Olympia doesn’t need a parking garage.  Such a structure would rapidly become a gray elephant.

In the 1980’s the City of Spokane built a downtown parking garage in a public-private partnership.  Lack of use caused the facility to fail and Spokane taxpayers spent millions to bail out the owners.

That’s going to happen in Olympia, if the city goes through with its plans for a parking garage.

City officials seem to think that if they build it – they will come.  That if they build a parking garage, shoppers will come and fill it up.  That’s just wishful thinking.

What the city needs, before it builds a parking garage, is more reasons for people to come into downtown.  In order to do that, it has to eliminate city regulations which make opening a downtown business difficult.  It has to severely reduce impact fees, and it has to change the entire atmosphere in city hall.  The city has to become more business friendly.

A parking garage will not attract shoppers or visitors.  Only a new attitude on the part of Olympia officials will do that.  We have to feel welcome and today we don’t.

Posted in Business, Government, The Real News

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