Yakima City Council chooses downtown plaza design, location

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Yakima's plans for a downtown plaza took a big leap forward. City Council chose a design and a location. But, the meeting wasn't all smooth sailing.

The winning design replaces the parking lot across from the Capitol Theatre.

"It provides everything that we've all been talking about as far as enhancing the downtown, but still provides the parking that we want," said Yakima City Councilmember, Kathy Coffey.

Architects say the city will lose only one parking space at the so-called south site. The plan calls for roughly 50 spaces on the plaza itself. And, about 360 next to it and within a city block.

The plaza would also include a large, shady grove, water features, seating steps and a lawn.

Five councilmembers gave the design the thumbs up. But, Rick Ensey and Bill Lover said no.

"I was for the north site," said Lover.

Meaning the parking lot north of Yakima Avenue.

"It has more potential for growth. And, I think it's in a less intrusive place."

Paul Nagle-McNaughton lives in Yakima. He disagrees with Lover.

"The north plaza just seems too cramped for what they're trying to do. If you're going to build a plaza, don't build half a plaza."

I asked Coffey what would become of Millennium Plaza.

"I don't think it fits in with the design as its stands. But, that doesn't mean that it can't still be a great force for our downtown."

Yakima City Manager Tony O'Rouke said it would cost roughly $150,000 to $200,000 to remove Millennium Plaza. More to relocate it.

That pales in comparison to the new plaza's estimated cost -- about $11 million for the preferred design. The city still has to figure out how to pay for it. It's hoping the private sector might kick in some of the money.

A more detailed financial plan on the plaza is expected in October.

City leaders will send the design back to architects to be refined. That process will likely take another month.

Councilmembers also took up Rick Ensey's proposal to reduce the city's utility tax by two percent. That idea was voted down. Council still plans to hold a public hearing on the matter in a couple of weeks.