Almost $300 Million Invested In Region’s Urban Corridors and Centers Since 2011
Municipalities and private developers have invested almost $300 million in mid-rise buildings, road improvements, and other projects along the region’s corridors and centers since 2011 — projects that are creating sustainable urban places and preserving rural spaces.
The robust development activity follows an influx of federal funding delivered to help the region emerge stronger and greener from the Great Recession: In 2011, as Thurston County’s unemployment rate hovered around 9 percent and few projects were breaking ground, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the Thurston Region a $750,000 Sustainable Communities Challenge Grant. Local governments matched the funds with more than $500,000 in dollars, staff hours, and big ideas.
The mindset: Never let a crisis go to waste.
The cities of Olympia, Lacey, and Tumwater worked with the Thurston Regional Planning Council, Thurston Economic Development Council, and other partners to plan the future of four corridor districts: Lacey’s Woodland District, Olympia’s Martin Way District, and Tumwater’s Brewery District and Capitol Corridor. Subsequent planning efforts, such as Main Street 507, focused on improving the social and economic vibrancy of South County downtowns that are connected by State Route 507.
Such planning work laid the foundation for significant public- and private-sector development projects as the economy recovered. Thurston County’s unemployment rate is below 5 percent today, and construction crews are pouring foundations and framing buildings around the region.
Downtown Olympia, alone, has attracted more than $180 million in investments since 2011 — much of it in mid-rise housing developments where there were once vacant buildings or lots [See map]. Olympia’s Comprehensive plan targets 5,000 additional residents in downtown Olympia by 2035.
“Things are going really, really well in our community, particularly in our downtown,” Olympia Community Planning & Development Director Keith Stahley said during TRPC’s Aug. 30, 2017, panel discussion about corridor planning and development. The panel was composed of local government planners from around the region.
Other uses for the nearly $300 million invested in the region’s urban corridors and centers include:
Multimodal (bicycle, automobile, pedestrian, transit) transportation design, and construction projects; and,
Stormwater infrastructure planning and construction projects.
Such investments are consistent with several of Sustainable Thurston’s goals, including: [Goal H-2] Increase housing amid urban corridors and centers to meet the needs of a changing population; [Goal H-4] Maximize opportunity to redevelop land in priority areas by investing in infrastructure and environmental remediation; and, [Goal T-4] Integrate transportation considerations into land use decisions, and vice versa.