Olympia's Downtown Strategy

What's Next?

Following a public hearing, the Olympia Planning Commission has recommended adoption with some minor changes. The City Council will review the final report at their regular business meeting on April 25, 2017

Downtown Strategy Cover

What is the
Downtown Strategy?

The Downtown Strategy (DTS) will help to make the community's vision and goals for Downtown a reality. Our vision is for Downtown to be a more vibrant and attractive place to live, work and play. Based on an extensive public process, the Strategy also:

  • Identifies community priorities
  • Outlines realistic and impactful actions for the next five years
  • Guides budgets and work plans
  • Builds community partnerships
  • Helps us market Downtown

View the DTS Summary

Additional background chapters are below.

Elements of the Strategy

downtown streetLand Use

Focuses on development regulations and other City planning actions to support our vision of Downtown as a thriving multifunctional urban center - especially the community’s desire for a family-friendly waterfront.

• View Chapter


construction downtownDevelopment Incentives

Describes 48 tools that support business and development goals, including funding methods, regulatory measures, programs and collaborative activities. Though many are already in use, the DTS recommends additions.

• View Chapter

Washington Center for the Performing ArtsDesign

Addresses design-related actions toward a more attractive and high quality urban environment, including design guidelines, wayfinding and art, historic preservation, and view protection measures.

• View Chapter

Aerial view of downtownTransportation

New street design concepts and investments to achieve the Strategy’s vision of “Connecting People, Places and Spaces” – While all modes are considered, there is a special focus on pedestrians and bikes.

• View Chapter

Debris downtownHomelessness, Street Dependency & Social Services

Focuses on the importance of taking next steps to address the human needs and impacts associated with homelessness in Downtown Olympia.

• View Chapter


new downtown housingHousing

Outlines proactive actions the City can take to help set the stage for strong, resilient Downtown neighborhood(s) with housing options for households with a wide range of incomes.

• View Chapter

downtown businessRetail Business, Community & Economic Development

Outlines a 6-point retail strategy with actions the City and partners can take to promote a vibrant, dynamic business environment that attracts people, activity and investment.

• View Chapter

Developing the Strategy - How We Got Here

In Step 1 we will gather information and analyze downtown conditions and goals, leading to the identification of more specific objectives.

Deliverables for Step 1

  • Preliminary real estate, job, housing and retail market analysis, describing how the different sectors interact and influence the Downtown’s overall economic vitality.
  • Mapping of sub-districts (areas of special character or function) within the downtown strategy area

Results from Step 1

Step 2 evaluates alternatives for land use, urban form and design, circulation, streetscape, high level parking strategies, and housing and social service measures.

Deliverables for Step 2

  • Identification of priority viewsheds, and analysis of how these could be protected through urban form alternatives, and the impacts to economic, housing and other goals.
  • Meeting with representatives of housing and social program providers to craft proposals that address housing and social support programs in downtown.
  • Analyze feasibility of various development types, and the economic implications.
  • Inform the scope of City’s upcoming parking strategy with a general comparative analysis of what parking issues might arise under different land use options.

Results from Step 2

Step 3 will develop a preferred land use & urban design strategy, and related real estate, housing, business and retail strategies.

Deliverables for Step 3

  • Develop a comprehensive downtown street improvement strategy that describes concepts appropriate for sub-districts, and includes schematics for 5 streets segments in the core that will be transformed over the next 6 years.
  • Meet with Design Review Board and Heritage Commission to discuss priorities for historic preservation and design guidelines.
  • Meet with housing and social services to identify implementation measures, including the resources and organizational collaboration necessary to carry them out.

Results from Step 3

Development & Business Forum #1   

Urban Design Discussion

Phase 4 will develop recommendations for zoning, view protection, design code amendments, and business and real estate incentives.

Deliverables for Step 4

  • Provide design concept illustrations, and review design recommendations with the Design Review Board.
  • Meet with housing and social services to identify implementation measures, including the resources and organizational collaboration necessary to carry them out.
  • Discussion of potential SEPA exemptions for minor construction projects and infill exemption areas, along with methods to address historic and cultural resources.
  • Draft a time phased implementation strategy that integrates recommended elements.

Results from Step 4

DTS Workshop #3

Development & Business Forum #2

In Step 5 the Draft Downtown Strategy will be reviewed by the Olympia Planning Commission, leading to adoption by the City Council.

Deliverables for Step 5

  • The Olympia Planning Commission will review the draft Downtown Strategy for consistency with the Comprehensive Plan.
  • The Commission and Council review process, including any workshops, public hearings or other opportunities.

Step 5 Public Meetings

  • Open House for Draft Downtown Strategy: (Done)
  • Open House & Planning Commission Briefing: February 6, 5-6:30 p.m. (Open House), 6:30 p.m. (OPC Briefing) Olympia City Hall
  • Public Hearing: February 27, 6:30 p.m., Olympia City Hall (Tentative)

A group of 15 citizen and other stakeholder representatives advised staff and consultants in preparation of public workshop materials.


Contact Amy Buckler, Senior Planner at 360.570.5847 or dts@ci.olympia.wa.us