State of the City: Tumwater mayor speaks about key priorities

Road projects, development, arts expansion and amphitheater


Ongoing road projects, further development, and an expanded cultural arts program are among the key priorities for Tumwater Mayor Debbie Sullivan.

The mayor spoke at a forum organized by the Tumwater Area Chamber of Commerce on March 20 and provided an informal discussion about the ongoing projects and other pressing issues in the city of Tumwater.

Sullivan was accompanied by former Economic Development Program Manager Austin Ramirez who shared that two studies found Tumwater, along with Olympia and Lacey, ranked among the top-performing cities in the entire country.

One of the studies, published last month, was conducted by the Milken Institute and ranks Olympia and Tumwater as the 9th best-performing large city in the country for 2024. The new ranking is a significant increase from the two cities’ 2023 ranking when they were at 42nd.

The second study was conducted by the research desk of Area Development Magazine and ranked the cities of Olympia, Lacey, and Tumwater as second in the country when the study was published in the fourth quarter of last year.

Ramirez explained that in raking cities across the country, the two studies investigated labor market performance, economic accessibility, industry sector performance, GDP growth, population growth projections, wage performance, and other factors.

Ongoing road projects

Sullivan started her updates with the reconfiguration project of Capitol Boulevard, Trosper Road, and I-5. The project involves the construction of three roundabouts and a new road from Lee Street called 6th Avenue.

The roundabouts are to be located at the intersection of Capitol Boulevard and Trosper Road, the intersection of the I-5 ramps and 6th Avenue, and lastly at the intersection of Trosper Road and 6th Avenue.

Sullivan shared that while they are ahead of schedule with the project, businesses have been impacted by the construction.

“As a city, we do buy rights-of-way and make good on land that has been taken over, but sometimes the economic part is still difficult,” the mayor said.

Sullivan also gave an update about the E Street connection project, which seeks to extend E Street and connect it to Cleveland Avenue. Residents near Cleveland Avenue had previously expressed concern that the city website shows designs of the proposed E Street extension cutting through a forested hill.

The mayor acknowledged the photos of the proposed layout of E Street on the city website but clarified that the project is still in its design phase. Sullivan said that staff will work to send out other alternative designs for the project.

More development coming to Craft District

Ramirez shared that the E Street connection project would reduce traffic on Capitol Boulevard by 80% by channeling regional traffic away from the road. The traffic reduction would help turn the road into a more pedestrian-friendly space as the city continues to develop the Craft District which is situated in the area.

The former program manager shared positive experiences about going to the Craft District. He assured that there are more planned developments for the area as more investors are looking into the location.

“There's a lot of FOMO, fear of missing out. And there are a lot of new developers, new investors that are looking at how they become a part of this and how they reactivate the entire brewery district. And so, I'm just really excited to see what's to come in the next few years,” Ramirez said.

Expanded cultural arts program

The mayor also mentioned that the amphitheater in Craft District will go live by the summer which will have a seating capacity of at least 1,500.

Sullivan added that the city could use the amphitheater for its expanded cultural arts program. As part of this expanded program, the mayor said that the city is looking for a new arts coordinator, as well as forming an arts commission.

“That's probably one of the boards or commissions that I have been most interested in. And I'm not looking to just visual art, looking at theatre, all different kinds of art,” Sullivan said.

Redevelopment of brownfield sites

The city is also planning to redevelop the old brewery site and the former Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) building on Capitol Boulevard. The two sites are considered brownfield properties which are unused properties where potential redevelopment is complicated by contamination.

The mayor shared that the city received $500,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and $200,000 from the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) to conduct environmental assessment work in preparation for the redevelopment of the two sites.

Sullivan said that the city has hired a consultant team to help them implement the grants and that they expect to begin the work for the project by next month.

Habitat conservation plan

Sullivan also spoke about the $2 million allocation from the Department of Commerce to help the city buy habitat land for Mazama pocket gophers (Thomomys mazama pugetensis). The acquisition of this land shows the city’s commitment to mitigation as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWF) reviews the city’s habitat conservation plan.

If the document is approved, it would permit development in areas where endangered species occur in exchange for mitigation in accordance with the details of the plan.


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  • oldgar9

    I just want Tumwater city government to understand that we don't reside in Tumwater for the development alone, This is the Evergreen State, Tumwater should keep this in mind so that disasters like the bulldozing of Tumwater hill to place houses 5 feet apart do not reoccur.

    Saturday, March 30 Report this

  • Southsoundguy

    Oldgar9, look at what they have approved for the area between Israel and Tumwater Blvd--1150 dormitories. What does that say about the City's belief in the future of the area? Certainly doesn't involve family formation and development that is integrated with its natural surroundings.

    Monday, April 1 Report this