Our Olympia Placemaking Walk

Last Tuesday, I took a walk with a couple of other people to talk about the four public spaces which are the focus of the city’s placemaking efforts. We undertook this walk without city staff even though there are several of such walks that city staff coordinate. You should contact the city’s Community Planning and Development department at the link above for more information.

You have seen the chart that I clipped earlier which is helpful to use as an analytical tool, but instead of evaluating each criteria, we simply imagined what we thought might bring in other users, and then started general discussion and speculation about each space. I’ll use the bullet point format to summarize our comments.

Sylvester Park

  • Sylvester Park is a classic village green but without very much housing nearby. (As a side note, we briefly speculated that it would take 5-10 large housing developments downtown to double the downtown population. Imagine how many skyscrapers it would take in Seattle to double its housing population.)
  • The only users in the park were walking their dog and someone blowing leaves.
  • The state owns the park and the street in front of the OSPI building.
  • All the benches face west and are arranged so you can’t face each other and talk—the arrangement appears optimized to allow a police officer to ensure from a passing car that people aren’t sleeping on them.
  • The soil needs better drainage because it becomes so soggy that you can hardly sit on the ground without soaking up a bunch of muddy water
  • Would a fountain or carousel for kids attract more people, or were we there at a down time of the day?
  • Would more historical interpretation increase users? This park was once THE city park before the Capitol Lake parks were created.
  • A Chessboard?
  • Coverage from rain for a quick lunch?
  • Closing off one of the streets to traffic to extend the space? In fact, we discussed turning all of Legion into a north/south east/west (thanks, Rob) bike boulevard for the city,  using one the recovered traffic lane to provide space for big trees and sidewalk cafes, removing the restroom in Heritage Park, and extending the tree lined boulevard now on Legion south of Plum all the way down to Heritage Park.
  • On the south side there is a 30 foot height limit to keep the sun shining on the park
  • What about breaking up the sidewalk with the cold iron railing to the south? Would some of the row of lining the edge of the park across from the bus station to open the sunlight and allowing passage from the south sidewalk into the park change the feel and sense of place with users?

Artesian Well

Phase I is already underway but we were not completely familiar with the plans.

  • There should be more art on the walls.
  • Planters are very obviously missing.
  • We need both truck passage and walking access—and there is a huge tension with this
  • Would ivy on trellises attached to the buildings change the parking lot feel of the space?
  • Trees?
  • Separation or transition from the parking lot?
  • What could be done with all the water runoff? A big pond with fish? A trout farm or stream? At least some kind of water absorptive plant in the area to turn it into a more natural looking area.

300 Block of Fourth Avenue

  • Rotating art or historical interpretation in some kind of alcoves in the alleys.
  • Open the asphalt to reveal the bricks under the alleys which would direct people toward rather than away from the alley.
  • Street cafes for the businesses so the hot dog stand isn’t the only one getting the brunt of passersby in the mood for interaction. Interestingly all the businesses on the 300 block appear to do a decent business and almost all retails spaces are leased.
  • We really would like another building where the Griswold building stands.

Intercity Transit Center (Olympia)

  • Separate the center plaza from the street, with something like a hedge or low fence to provide some kind of separation from the auto traffic.
  • Mobile food vendors in the plaza would be a great addition.
  • How would we define that space? (Can we comprehend it without seeing the boundaries? How does that work with huge natural areas forests and mountain tops?)
  • The intersection is pedestrian-dead (meaning that it has been invaded and used exclusively by cars). Can it be brought back by using some of PPS templates? Here is their image library.
  • People move in and out quickly to catch their buses, so what can you do in 8 minutes that could be implemented there?

What do you think?

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One Response to Our Olympia Placemaking Walk

  1. Rob Richards says:

    In the third to last bullet under ‘Sylvester Park’ – you have Legion as running north/south when it’s actually east/west.

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