In 2013 a Yakima citizen survey identified downtown revitalization and economic development as a top priority (91%). With this mandate, the city council moved to create a Downtown Master Plan, with the guidance of economic development experts Crandall Arambula. Direct input from residents was gathered through public meetings. (April 17, 2014, May 13, 2014, August 12, 2014)
The consensus of this very public process, was to create a Central Plaza located in the parking lot between Yakima’s two most iconic buildings, Larson Building and the Capitol Theatre, as the first step in downtown redevelopment.
The Plaza concept is a proven one. A well-designed, open events space – a “core”- serves as a magnet for people, and as developers know, where the people are, businesses will follow. Additional development means increased tax revenue to the city.
As it stands today, the construction of the Plaza is 75% privately funded, with the city’s remaining commitment of $1.8 million coming from REET funds. No taxpayers funds are being applied to this project.
Vote Yes! for Yakima Plaza
In 2012, the City of Yakima surveyed residents to determine what they felt were the most important priorities for the future of Yakima. Ninety-one percent of the residents surveyed said investing in economic development is a top priority. With this clear public mandate, city leaders hired economic development experts Crandall-Arambula and Thomas Consultants to develop a downtown master plan. These experts, guided by input form nine public meetings and case studies from other communities, recommended a plan with a central plaza.
A plaza-specific survey was conducted in May 2014, asking where residents would prefer to have a plaza and what they would like to see in it. The “south site” parking lot was overwhelmingly the popular choice.
Carl Walker Parking Consultants were then hired to assess the plaza’s parking impact, where it was found that even at maximum use, parking within the two-block radius of the Yakima Central Plaza is more than sufficient to support both the plaza activity and surrounding businesses.
After a public bidding process, a team of two firms was selected for Concept Design: Gustafson Guthrie Nichol (GGN) as Landscape Architect and Graham Baba as Architect. The final design integrates citizen priorities like public safety, increased lighting, public spaces where people want to spend time, and the resident-directed plaza priorities like shade, fountains, and event space. The plaza design even includes 54 parking spots for senior and disabled patrons.
At the July 5, 2016 City Council meeting, Council approved City funding of $3 million with the expectation the Downtown Plaza Committee needed to raise nearly $9 million to complete the $11.9 million total project.
In October 2016, the SEPA (State Environmental Protection Act) process for the project began and are expected to be completed in December. The City does not anticipate any major findings as they conducted a major geotechnical survey of the property before they began final design work. City engineers have been working with local utility companies on their utility relocation plans.
By the close of 2016, GGN is completing all construction bid documents and the contractor package. The project will be ready for bid contingent on the completion of the fundraising efforts.
To create a comprehensive downtown planning process with the goal to create the necessary activity that will help attractive investment and catalyze further economic growth, numerous public meetings held with the community and smaller breakout groups with the downtown business community.
At the July 5, 2016 City Council meeting, Council approved City funding of $3 million with the expectation the Downtown Plaza Committee will raise close to $9 million in donations and pledges.
The Plaza Committee raise around $9.7 million.