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"What price growth...?"

Opposition to garage forces port to back off

Our Views

"It's a terrible location."

That's Port Commissioner Bob VanSchoorl's reaction to the port's proposal to build a three-story parking garage north of the Farmers Market.

Just back from a 12-day vacation in Italy, VanSchoorl said he was "shocked" to see the proposed parking garage location. "We've been talking about a parking garage near the Farmers Market for years, but never in that location," VanSchoorl said. He prefers a site closer to Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters or maybe near the Department of Fish and Wildlife building off Capitol Way.

But not immediately north of the Farmers Market.

VanSchoorl's reaction comes as good news for market supporters who were just as flabbergasted as VanSchoorl to learn of the port's plans. In fact, the public reaction was so swift and so negative, the port has backed off the proposed site adjacent to the market.

Garage needed

A parking garage - or more than one - makes sense on the port peninsula, especially if commissioners are going to be successful in attracting new businesses to the area. But siting those garages is critically important.

The immediate backlash on the Farmers Market site - from VanSchoorl, from market managers and vendors and from market patrons - convinced port managers that they are barking up the wrong tree.

Let's face it, parking garages are unattractive. They're cold, dark, intimidating, unsightly and placed north of the market would block views of the Olympic Mountain range. It is, just at VanSchoorl says, "a terrible location."

Public response

That thought was echoed repeatedly last weekend as flyers announcing the port's $5.4 million parking plan were circulated at the market.

"It's going to be this monstrosity breathing down our neck," said market general manager Charlie Haney. "It's totally going to ruin the ambience down here."

"It's a stupid, silly and self-serving idea," said Bob Sullivan, president of the market's board of directors. "The port no longer wishes to water the flower that grew the garden from which it now reaps great rewards."

"If it takes away free parking from our customers, the market might as well close," said Chehalis jam and jelly vendor Patsy Chrisman.

"That's a crock," Tara Brink of Olympia said when told about the proposed garage. "It's just going to kill the whole feeling of this place."

Market officials urged customers to oppose the parking plan.

Other locations

VanSchoorl was immediately on their side. The port commissioner is right when he says that a parking garage likely will be necessary near the 17-acre parcel off State Avenue that's being considered for a new Olympia City Hall and Hands On Children's Museum.

He's also right that another parking structure will be needed near the market. His preferred location is a site near the coffee roasters, a plan VanSchoorl said would allow road realignments that would make for easier public access. And if the port is able to acquire the Fish and Wildlife property on Capitol Way, a parking structure near the railroad tracks might be possible, VanSchoorl said.

Another possible location might be the parking lot to the east - across Washington Street - from the Market Centre Building.

No matter the ultimate parking garage decisions, VanSchoorl said he'll insist that market patrons be allowed to park for free, and not just on the first floor as some port officials are proposing.

VanSchoorl's thinking is in line with members of the public who understand that the Farmers Market is a jewel and the worst thing to do would be to take away the surface parking adjacent to the market and replace it with an ugly, $5.4 million, three-story parking garage.

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Updated 2007/02/09 22:29:32

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