Downtown master plan: New research highlights pros & cons

Downtown master plan: New research highlights pros & cons »Play Video
YAKIMA, Wash. -- A consultant hired to come up with some answers to help the revitalization effort completed the first step in the process. KIMA got a hold of that information.

The little grassy square, on the corner of 2nd and A Streets, is the only public park in the heart of downtown.

"It is pretty hard to believe for a city of this size," said Gail Kunz, who works downtown.

New research into Downtown Yakima found what the city's center lacks and what it has.

It's the first step to develop a master plan to guide the revitalization of downtown.

"I think maybe they could eliminate some of the parking and put some more green space," said Kunz.

It turns out Yakima has more than 8,000 parking spots downtown. City leaders say that limits progress.

"So much of the land use has gone into parking lots as opposed to building," said Yakima Economic Development Manager Sean Hawkins.

Hawkins says some of that parking might need to go away to increase density downtown. New buildings could centralize activity.

Yakima says one issue it faces it that most of the key roads through downtown, like Yakima Ave, have four or more lanes, which the city says doesn't promote a pedestrian friendly environment.

Getting more people walking, shopping and eating here is the goal. Downtown businesses like Casa Vittore want that.

"For us, as a business, it's good. But, for the city, if we pay our taxes, if we make good business here, it's going to be good for everyone," said Casa Vittore owner Victor Renteria.

Cutting traffic on Yakima Avenue could mean pushing drivers to use streets like Lincoln Avenue or the renovated Martin Luther King Boulevard.

The city will also consider buying more land to add parks.

Nothing's decided, but this new information indicates where focus is needed.

Yakima also wants your ideas for making downtown better.

The city will hold its first public hearing Thursday night about the downtown master plan.

It starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Howard Johnson Hotel.