Trust for Public Land closes deal for Mistake on the Lake

From today's inbox:

We want to let you know about two very important developments in our four-year effort to remove the "mistake by the lake" and create the Capitol Olympic Vista Park on the Olympia Isthmus. First, the owners of the Capitol Center Building have signed option agreements with The Trust for Public Land (TPL) to sell their properties on the Isthmus for $9.995 million. The sale of these two acres would include the nine story building, the adjacent one story annex building and the parking lot north of 4th street. The option agreements must be executed by November 2012, and are contingent upon the City of Olympia agreeing to purchase the properties from TPL as part of the planned Capitol Olympic Vista Park. The purchase price is the lowest amount we have seen in recent years for the properties. It is less than the the amount the current owners paid for the properties, and it may be the lowest price we will ever see.

Second, we just received the results of a professional poll, conducted on June 14, of Olympia voters regarding their willingness to pay for the purchase of the Capitol Center Building. The poll found that 58% of respondents would approve a $12 million bond referendum to finance the acquisition of these properties and the removal of the Capitol Center Building. After hearing additional arguments in favor of the purchase, the approval rate increased to 63%. We estimate that a $12 million bond measure would cost the average Olympia homeowner $37 per year for twenty years.

Another poll question showed that 81% of the voters want the Capitol Center Building torn down, while 12% prefer to turn the existing building into a hotel and convention center. Among the group that wants to tear the building down, 75% want the area converted to a Park, and 25% prefer mixed use for retail, commercial and housing.

The next step in this process is for the City Council of Olympia to decide whether to act on the options secured by TPL and agree to purchase the building. This will require the Council to identify the mechanism to raise the needed funds. If they choose to place a bond referendum on the November election ballot, the County Auditor must receive this information by August 7. A bond measure requires over 60% voter approval to pass. There may also be other financing mechanisms available to the City Council.

These option agreements and the polling results are two of the most significant events, thus far, in our campaign to create the Park. This campaign began with widespread community concern regarding plans to intensively develop the Isthmus with high-rise condominiums. This concern led to the successful citizen's initiative that gathered 5000 signatures in September 2008 to study the feasibility of creating a park instead. Today, we are closer than ever to protecting and perfecting the views to and from America's most magnificent capitol campus setting. The Olympic Capitol Vista Park can be the legacy gift of this generation of Olympians to the people of Washington State.

Thank you for all of your wonderful and continuing support for this effort.

Best Regards,
Jerry Reilly, Chair
Olympia Capitol Park Foundation


Good idea

but facing a 2.5 million shortfall the City should have other priorities than to bail out a property owner.


The funding for this would certainly be a bond or special revenue raised for the purpose, if it happens at all.  Capital funding for purchasing back land (even from private parties) is common in city planning and does not actually affect operational budgets.  Money is fungible, but only to a point. 

The alternative of course is that the City would not take the opportunity to buy out the private party and the building either continues to sit unused, or gets made into some kind of high end condos.  Neither option would help solve the budget issues the city has, nor would those pressures help the downtown street dependent people.


Park, Baby, Park

Park, Baby, Park