Yakima's downtown master plan looks to add parking spots

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Yakima's proposed Downtown Master Plan looks nice on paper. That includes the key component of expanding Millennium Plaza into an entertainment facility for things like concerts and the Farmer's Market.

"For so long, we don't even have a town square to meet at, a public meeting place and this gives us that home or that feeling of home," said Downtown Business Owner Joe Mann.

There is a downside to that larger plaza. It would eliminate the 200 parking spaces there now.

"We have more vehicles on the road, we have more street problems," said Carol Alumbaugh.

Since the proposal came to light, Yakima has been trying to find a way to replace that lost parking. A short-term possibility would use the parking garage at the Dragon Inn. The city also wants to make deals with nearby banks so people can park in their lots. Adding more angled parking on streets is another answer. All of these add up to 300 spaces.

"A lot of it is some simple fixes and really taking advantage of some parking that the city owns already," said Yakima Economic Development Manager Sean Hawkins.

Another option being explored would use the parking garage at the old Yakima Mall for city employees. It could also be available for special events and overflow parking. There's enough room for a thousand cars there.

"We have 8,500 spots or so in our downtown," said Sean. "We have plenty of parking. It's just how we manage it and how we prioritize who gets to use those best spots."

However, adding more angled parking on Yakima Avenue comes with its own hiccup. Four lanes would be cut down to two and would force more drivers to use other streets. The city plans to analyze the traffic more to figure out exactly how that would work.

Yakima City Council wants to hold another study session on the downtown plan to go over more options.