Port of Olympia plans for large developments along waterfront in coming years


Several sites along the Port of Olympia’s eastern bank may see significant development in the years to come, as Port officials continue seeking public input and discussing the sweeping Destination Waterfront plan.

Destination Waterfront is the moniker for a project born out of the port’s Vision 2050 project, which sought public input on Port activity through the next few decades. Vision 2050, Port officials say, was an effort to ensure the Port pursue projects within the public interest, and in partnership with area maritime and ecological organizations.

An “outcome statement” — or vision for what the project becomes — reads, in its entirety:

“The Port Peninsula develops as a Destination Waterfront that offers first-rate restaurants, recreation, public art, visitor accommodations and gathering places while ensuring connectivity with the water, nearshore and the existing downtown core. Within ten years the Destination Waterfront features an inviting and walkable environment that is home to at least one anchor hospitality tenant, Port business and administrative offices and a mix of mission driven and small business enterprises. There are public amenities, interpretive and educational displays and opportunities for both active and passive recreation with an emphasis on view preservation. Standards for adaption to sea level rise have been developed and implemented, and environmental cleanup and restoration efforts are well underway.”

On Thursday, members of the firm Thomas Architecture Studios, the company overseeing development plans for Destination Waterfront, presented the results of two surveys distributed to Thurston County residents, seeking comment on possible uses for several sites sitting along the water’s edge adjacent to the port. It was the fourth and final meeting of its sort, although the development is an agenda item for discussion during the March 8 and March 22 Port Commissioners meetings.

The first survey distributed throughout the county showed most respondents were interested in seeing Destination Waterfront develop into a community hub and tourist destination with possible museums and other amenities. A close second option was for the sites to be maintained as open spaces and a third was recreation and access to water. The least popular development possibility was industrial use.

Project Manager Amos Callendar with Thomas Architecture Studios said the survey was open-ended, leaving plenty of space for respondents to write in their own responses to questions. He and others sorted through the surveys and noted which uses were among the most mentioned. A second survey, however, was much less open-ended. It posed questions to respondents, and asked them to rank their preferences. Questions like: What architectural style do you prefer? (Most answered “Pacific Northwest”) Which shoreline improvement do you prefer? (Most answered a “living shoreline”)

Of the 11 sites along the shoreline eyed for development, three were slated as possibly remaining the same — one is a parking lot, the other parking and a boat launch and the third is a very narrow plot conducive to a walking trail or living shoreline. Many more were conducive to mixed-use. But others were marked for being the possible sites for museums, cultural centers and an RV park.

Port of Olympia Executive Director Sam Gibboney said that public input in the project thus far has helped guide the Port’s and planners' priorities.

“I believe that when we engage the public in a manner that we’ve done here — where we really have asked people to step up and give their time, their attention, their creativity and to really engage with us in a thoughtful and caring manner — that when the results of that come back, it is incumbent on us as a public agency and really as your local port, to accept those results with grace and gratitude,” said Gibboney.


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