Download the Plaza Brochure

What is the next step?
Read more about the timeline.


How much does the plaza cost and where will those funds come from?

The TOTAL plaza cost is $11,927,491 million dollars. The City will pay up to $3,000,000 in costs with the remaining funds being raised by the private sector.  See the current fundraising total.


How were the designers selected and who are they?

After a public bidding process a team of two firms was selected for Concept Design–GGN (Gustafson Guthrie Nichol)  as Landscape Architect and Graham Baba as Architect. Kathryn Gustafson, founding principal at GGN, is a Yakima native and her knowledge of the local landscape has informed the project design. Her diverse span of works are known as ground-breaking, contemporary designs that incorporate the sculptural, sensual qualities that are fundamental to the human experience of landscape. Kathryn’s completed work from both firms includes the Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain in London.

Brett Baba, principal at Graham Baba, is an award-winning architect with over 30 years of experience.  For the Yakima Central Plaza, Graham Baba’s focus has been on the “market hall” structure that also shelters parking and restrooms.

Their design for the Yakima Central Plaza is already award winning, earning an American Institute of Architects Central Washington Citation Award.  GGN recently completed work at the National Museum for African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington DC.


What about parking?

Upon construction of the plaza, there will be NO NET LOSS OF PARKING SPOTS WITHIN ONE BLOCK OF THE PLAZA. The plaza itself will have 54 designated spaces for senior citizens and disabled patrons, and 2nd street is being reformatted to include additional parking spaces close to Cowiche Kitchen and the Larson Building. Additionally, the City has been diligent in adding new parking within a two block walk of the new plaza space. Today, there there are 1,250 new parking spaces within two blocks of the plaza, compared to 750 before this project was considered. In addition, other lots, 2 blocks from the plaza area are revamped with lighting, and resurfacing to accommodate all day employee parking.  In addition to the 1,250 parking spaces within two blocks of the plaza, are 1,200 spaces available in the former Yakima Mall parking structure.


Didn’t all the surrounding property owners pay for the parking lot? 

The parking lot was paid for the by City and by businesses within a 16 block radius of downtown through a Local Improvement District between 1976-1996.

The City paid 40% of the cost and businesses in the district each paid based on the number of employees that worked in the location. It was the business not the Property owners who paid into the LID. The 1974 ordinance that created the Local Improvement District states that, “the city may construct building for a public use on this lot so long as the capacity of such lot is not diminished or equivalent parking is provided in the immediate area.”

Since October of 2014, the City has expanded the number of public parking spaces within two blocks of the plaza from 750 to 1,250.


Was there public input?

The Yakima City Council didn’t dream up the plaza concept. The concept was recommended to the City through a comprehensive downtown planning process with the goal to create the necessary activity that will help attractive investment and catalyze further economic growth. There were numerous public meetings held with the community and smaller breakout groups with the downtown business community. The dates were:

  • May 9/10, 2013
  • July 10/11, 2013
  • September 9, 2013
  • October 22, 2013
  • December 11, 2013
  • May 13, 2014
  • August 12, 2014
  • October 12, 2014
  • October 24, 2014
  • September 22nd, 2015
  • January 19th, 2016
  • May 3rd, 2016
  • July 5th, 2016


To guide the plaza design a public survey process was implemented to gather public feedback on willingness to walk, design features of the plaza, types of events and activities people would like to see in downtown. 1,586 took the survey in May of 2014 to help guide this process.


How will the plaza be maintained?

The plaza will be maintained on a daily basis by the City’s downtown cleaning contractor Block by Block at annual cost of $68,000. The plan will have a maintenance hospitality ambassador assigned to the plaza Monday through Friday eight hours a day from November 1 – March 31. From April 1 until October 31, there will maintenance service seven days a week eight hours a day. The services to be performed include hospitality and security services, power washing, littler removal, restroom and fountain maintenance and event assistance.


Event capabilities and infrastructure (such as rest-rooms) –

The design of the plaza is meant to host a variety of activities, of all sizes, throughout the year, without closing the streets of downtown. A market hall will provide a shaded place for our Farmers Market vendors and create the ability to host markets on other days of the week. There are three different spaces will be available to host events including concerts, festivals, ice skating rink and more. In the first year of the plaza we anticipate the plaza will host 75 public events and lead up to 100 by year three. The plaza will feature 20,000 square feet of fountains and splash areas. To be enjoyed by children and their families all summer.  Permanent restrooms will be on site, but overflow events will require additional restrooms to be brought in.

Our plaza will be designed for events and activities. Look what other regional plazas have experienced with their projects:

Missoula, MT (69,122) – Caras Park

Event attendance – 1,000,000 people in 2014

Caras Park is typically booked with open to the public events Thursday to Sunday from May to September. Events include concerts, car shows, festival, food events and more.

Rapid City, SD (70,812) – Main Street Square

Event attendance – 700,000 in 2014

Main Street Square hosts a variety of activities including movie nights, concerts, holiday celebrations and features an ice skating rink during the winter.


What kind of events could be booked into the Yakima Central Plaza?

A plaza is a place for people. The following established events could be housed in the plaza; Viva la Musica Concert Series, Thursday Night Concert Series – Downtown Summer Nights, Farmers Market (Sunday/weekday market), Lunch Time Live, Yakima Blues & Brews Festival, Yakima Roots & Vines Festival, Cinco de Mayo, Taste of Yakima, Fresh Hop Ale Festival, Yakima Uncorked, America on Tap, Symphony in the Park, Playdate Kids Expo, Daily splash and play times, and much more. A flexible plaza space will allow for us to host numerous new events as well.


Who does support the plaza?

The Capitol Theatre Board of Directors, the Board of Directors of the Yakima Symphony, the owner of Larson Building, Dragon Inn Garage and former Speakeasy location and the downtown hotel owners, all see the long term benefit to downtown business. The owners of Washington Fruit, the Plath family have stepped up to contribute the first $2million in private funding. Other advocates include Joe Mann, and Roger Wilson who both own several buildings in downtown.


Will the plaza have a solid ROI (return on Investment) and generate more revenue for the city?

During the community study session, the consultants Crandall – Arambula hired by the city of Yakima to advise on strategies to improve downtown, they pointed to several cities who created a Plaza to attract business investments.

Medford, OR (80,000) – The Commons

Project cost: $10 million

Resulting Investment: $145 million

ROI: $15/$1

The Commons is also a public/private partnership development in downtown Medford’s urban renewal area that includes corporate headquarters facilities, retail and commercial. Park blocks and additional downtown parking.

Racine, WI (80,000) – Downtown Strategy

Project cost: $3 million

Resulting Investment: $200 million

ROI: $66/$1

Lincoln, NE (260,000) – Civic Plaza & Catalyst Project

Project Cost: $10.5 million

Resulting Investment: $54 million

ROI: $5/ $1

The goal of this project was to strengthen downtown Lincoln by developing a new public plaza and supporting streetscape enhancements with the construction of a mixed-use public parking facility with retail on the ground floor and residential units above the garage. The project removed the blighted and substandard conditions by developing underutilized lots and contributed to the continued revitalization of downtown by encouraging private investment in the area.


What does the Plaza DO?

A Plaza has been the hub of life in towns in this country and around the world for centuries.  Recently, many other cities, and even commercial property developers such as the company who owns the Valley Mall, have begun to incorporate the central Plaza concept, and public amenities as part of their plans.

It is not a destination in and of itself.  It is a venue for events, a signature gathering spot, and an extension of a downtown visit. It is the INVITATION to not just drive by and leave- but to linger and visit more.  This is the key to the success of Plazas in the economic development of downtowns- Walkability.  Plazas are an intentional choice to incorporate open space in a center city and something that is extremely attractive to the eye.  They become the city’s unique visual signature.  A plaza checks two boxes off the citizens survey – a more attractive city face, and improved economic development.


What will the plaza look like?

plaza2 plaza3 plaza4 rendering