Downtown changes to include free parking and weekly events

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Free parking, a pedestrian plaza and weekly events are in store for downtown Yakima. It's all a part of the city's plan to make it a place to be.

Downtown Yakima could become the happening city in Central Washington, but there are a few changes that need to take place first.

"What do you think it needs?," Action News asked taxpayers.

"Well, we just need to fill more spaces," said Donna Roy. "There are a lot of empty spaces on the avenue."

That's what City Manager Tony O'Rourke and council members think. They enacted a four-part plan they hope will make the difference. It includes shrinking the downtown business improvement district.
Eliminating downtown parking fees, holding weekly events and creating a 4th street pedestrian plaza.

Shrinking the downtown business improvement district will allow more focus on the downtown core. It also means a loss of revenue. Right now, the improvement district brings in a little more than $221,000 a year. That will drop starting next year by about $61,000.

Some like the idea of free parking downtown, but that means a loss of another $50,000 a year.

"Sometimes you go to look at the bigger picture and when you are talking about taking the parking regulations and lifting those we may get some money from those, but what kind of attitude and atmosphere that is creating," asked Yakima Mayor Micah Cawley. "We want people to come downtown and let them know they are welcome downtown."

The section of Fourth Street behind the Capitol Theater will shut down and give way to a pedestrian plaza. Yakima also set aside $100,000 to support new downtown events at various locations. While nothing specific is in the works, there's optimism that investing money now will bring a great return for Yakima.

Most changes will take effect January first. The plaza will take longer.