Can’t afford to build in downtown?

Via The Olympian, “Builder: Fees could kill condos“:

A developer planning to build 100 condominiums downtown says city, school and development fees are too high and could kill the project.

Wait. Wasn’t this the project that was going to build parking into the building also and was a great example of multiuse design and density for downtown?

Interesting how the comments from members of the City Council come from the two with direct ties to the ODA, which has a competing agenda for a parking garage downtown.

While I’m not sure that it makes sense to waive the fees that are talked about in this article, it occurs to me that there’s a disconnect between complaints about downtown vacancy rates and the cost of being downtown.

When there are people and businesses that would like to locate downtown but cannot or find that they cannot afford to be there once they do, then this may be an issue of rents being too high.

I don’t think the response to the perception of high vacancy rates should be to turn downtown into an upscale, open-air mall.

There’s a lot of land that is un- or under-utilized in the downtown of Olympia, but I suspect that, maybe even only a little, serves someone’s agenda. This becomes a contrived argument for changes that are only apparently necessary because the state of things has been created.

On some level, I think that I’ve always been proud of Olympia for keeping tight control on downtown. The example that always comes to me is the McDonald’s on Plum that doesn’t have the obnoxious arches. However, there’s a certain general hostility to businesses that might otherwise have chosen to be downtown, but locate elsewhere.

In my view, there’s a comparible struggle between downtown Olympia and the Pioneer Square area of Seattle. There is a character, an aesthetic that should be maintained. But, that has to stay in relationship with keeping an area economically viable.

It seems to me that if there are people in downtown that businesses would arrive to provide services. So, building a single-use parking facility or concentrating on businesses first might not be ideal. Finding a way to get people in downtown seems like it might be the ideal first step to creating a more vibrant downtown.

Of course, I can’t help but remember that the residents of the new water-facing condos in downtown Seattle complained about the summer concerts on the pier. Although an article I just searched suggests that the move to south lake union park was due to the piers needing repair, I seem to recall that the tension between the concerts and the residents was part of why they moved.

I bring this up because an increased number of residential building in downtown will have consequences for activities in downtown. One might be forgiven for thinking that complaints about homeless and teens in downtown are a bit shrill, but that’s nothing compared to what might happen when there’s more residential occupancy.

And therein is another consequence to higher density: a likely increased demand for police presence. That’s something to keep in mind, especially for city planners and for planners of community oversight.