Yakima city council concerned with downtown plaza funding short $4M

Yakima city council concerned with downtown plaza funding short $4M

YAKIMA, Wash. -- City officials are concerned about fundraising efforts for the new Downtown Central Plaza.

A December deadline was set by city council in January to raise the full $9 million needed for project construction to start. However, there has been a drop in donations the last few months, leaving some questioning whether the deadline will be met.

Most afternoons Millennium Plaza sits empty, but plans for a new multi-million dollar design could change all that.

Funding pledges surged to $5.3 million by November 2016, just four months after summer campaigning started. But four months later, less than $30,000 has trickled in, alarming some city council members.

“I'm becoming more and more concerned about this project; about whether or not our vision was overly ambitious,” said city councilmember Dulce Gutierrez.

It’s a $10.8 million project with the city kicking in nearly two million, but the plaza committee is currently short $4 million from its goal.

“The committee is currently working on a list of 197 prospects for gifts in the $5,000 to $500,000 range,” said city Economic Development Director Sean Hawkins.

But simple math suggests some big donors are needed.

The city has been denied $1 million for the plaza from the state capital budget this year, with funds instead being channeled to different areas including homeless programs.

Plaza organizers said major projects from SOZO and the YMCA also add to the challenge.

“Yakima as a whole as a community is very, very generous, but this is a unique time in its history that there are a lot of different projects out there asking for money from some of the same donors,” said Hawkins.

Hawkins said the focus will now be soliciting regional foundations and seeking grants, a process that can take up to six months. Three applications are out to foundations, including one for $300,000 and another for $100,000. Getting federal funding could take a year.

“There's been a lot of requests that are hanging out there and we're still confident we can get there,” said plaza funding organizer John Baule.

But some city councilmembers still aren't convinced and worried that time and staff resources are being wasted.

“With the progress seemingly slow, it leaves us with no other option but to resort to some of these other opportunities for funding which are equally concerning,” said Gutierrez.

A long-awaited project that could be delayed indefinitely.

Plaza committee officials said they plan to advertise on the radio and have public service announcements throughout May and June to reach donors.

The city council unanimously voted to get frequent updates on fundraising progress and a comprehensive second-quarter report in June.

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