Last night's gathering of hundreds of folks at the Yakima Convention Center wasn't a new occurrence. In fact, it happened just two months ago, when a similar group gathered to discuss options for revitalizing downtown Yakima.
But there was something a bit different at this particular meeting. In May, we heard that Yakima needed a plaza – or a "postcard" place. This time, we saw what that meant. Think Millennium plaza, but oh so much better. Millennium Plaza, "Pioneer Plaza" style…with a "family fountain" that acts as a "beach," an edible orchard, an area for events and farmers markets, concerts and Christmas events.
And then there's the proposed new "Pike Place Market" style market on Front Street, mirroring the architecture of the depot building. One building for year-long use, another with roll-down doors for warm weather merchants – perhaps it's our mercado, celebrating our Hispanic culture. And the trolley, a signature piece of Yakima's transportation history, taking people from the Convention Center to 7th avenue—exposing riders to the array of shops down our 1.25 mile corridor. Add to this new, grassy street medians to calm traffic and beautify the landscape, bike lanes, affordable downtown housing, new retail developments, well-planned parking structures, and downtown Yakima is reborn.
But there was another big difference in this meeting: even with the hundreds in attendance, most everyone agreed with the plans, and agreed that now is the time to think BIG. Yes, there may need to be a few tweaks. Yes, phasing is certainly a part of getting to the vision, and it's going to take time and money. But that room full of hundreds of Yakima residents agreed. We must think big. We must plan for the future. We are worthy of a signature downtown.
Now, we need to grow that support – a flame, if you will – from the conference room into the entire populace. If you believe in what Yakima can be – and we assume you do if you're reading our blog – then read the plans. Tell the city that you're behind this. Make your voice known. When it comes time to speak out at a council meeting, in the newspaper or at a forum, don't be afraid. We are worth it. Yakima deserves this kind of vision, and this kind of love. Let's help our spark grow into a flame.