Northeast Olympia Anticipates Steps Towards Enhanced Neighborhood Center

For decades, a former service station has sat vacant in the heart of the Northeast Olympia neighborhood. The location, adjacent to Roosevelt Elementary, San Francisco Street Bakery, and a small grocery store, has been designated as part of a neighborhood center in the Olympia Comprehensive Plan and City zoning. The City has now issued a demolition permit to the owner and demolition of the existing structure has begun in order to make way for space where neighbors can gather, eventually with a food truck meal or beverage in hand.
In 2014, City staff worked with several neighborhoods to think about what small-scale commercial neighborhood centers might look like. Two years later, the Olympia Northeast Neighborhoods Alliance (ONNA), comprised of the East Bay Drive, Northeast, Bigelow Highlands, Bigelow and former Upper Eastside neighborhood associations, completed a subarea plan and ranked rejuvenation of this site as one of their top priorities.  
With the site at 1400 Bethel St. NE under new and willing ownership, members of the neighborhood have volunteered their time to engage with the owners and City staff to leverage the site into a local asset. Many meetings later, they have a vision and a plan.  
The City is currently considering a $8,000 Neighborhood Matching Grant funding application request for seating, landscaping and fencing to support the neighborhood alliance’s efforts, which would include the work of 50 volunteers performing an estimated 300 hours of labor to build and maintain the space. The owner, Jung Kim, plans to make the transformed area also available for food trucks.

“The five surrounding neighborhood associations have been working together to see something positive here for over 10 years. Altogether, we’ve probably put more than 1,000 hours of volunteer time working towards this goal,” said Olympia Northeast Neighborhoods Alliance chairman, Mike Dexel. “I’m eager to see the site become a neighborhood asset where the community can relax and gather.”

Based on the current schedule, it will be late summer when residents should be able to hop on a bicycle to grab a bite or meet up at the site.
“The vibe will be a lot better. With Roosevelt Elementary across the street, kids and parents could visit this site before and after school. It will complement the draw of people to our neighborhood with the San Francisco bakery right there, too,” said Dexel. “We've shared our subarea planning efforts and survey results about a neighborhood center at this corner with the current owners, Mr. and Mrs. Kim.
“With their partnership, there may be some food trucks here in the future or an open-air market or neighborhood outdoor event, all of which were some of the ideas we received as a result of our subarea plan survey,” he said. “Food trucks would align really well, and we want to support the Kim’s efforts do something good here.”
Neighborhood centers are an important part of Olympia’s community wide goals to increase walkability, reduce carbon footprints, improve human health, and foster neighborhood connections and resiliency. A City planning project begun in 2022 and anticipated for completion in 2023 will help this and other neighborhoods better understand the market conditions likely to help or hinder these benefits at 12 locations across Olympia.
The current collaboration anticipates interim benefits with some attractive landscaping, planters and picnic tables that make growing use of investments in sidewalks and public art that have already been made here - until a more comprehensive and permanent project becomes viable.
Because the site is a former service station, the City used a previous EPA brownfield program grant to help property owners of multiple sites from across the city further understand long-term cleanup needs. This grant helped better determine the underground soil contamination issues at this site along with safe management in the interim until a full redevelopment project and long-term cleanup occurs.
Lydia Moorehead, Associate Planner
Community Planning & Development
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