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Downtown Welcomes the Community with Additional Lighting

Alley Lighting Project

Proper lighting in cities increases safety, aids in orientation, and highlights a location's identity and unique history, according to the Project for Public Spaces. This spring, the Olympia Downtown Alliance and the Parking and Business Improvement Area (PBIA), downtown's business assessment district, partnered to bring light to the often-overlooked alleys between Legion, State, and 4th and 5th Avenues.

Amy Buckler, Strategic Projects Manager in the city's Economic Development Department, explains that "Over the past several years, there has been a concerted effort by the Olympia Downtown Alliance, City, and PBIA to increase lighting in the downtown: festive lighting over the streets, safety lighting in parking lots, and making sure pathways from parking to destinations are well lit."

"The alley lighting project is making a positive impact on downtown because it creates a festive atmosphere while also contributing to safety," says Buckler. "People from Olympia and beyond always tell us how much they love downtown. This is one of the ways we are working together to improve the experience so that people can enjoy everything our local businesses and entertainment venues offer."

PBIA's Board is made up of local business owners who set aside funds in 2022 to sponsor a project dedicated to bringing folks back downtown after COVID. "They wanted to create a visual impact and a sense of fun and excitement that could be enjoyed both day and night," says Buckler. "After exploring a range of ideas, PBIA chose to split their funds between this alley lighting project and a project in partnership with the Olympia Artspace Alliance to create two new murals and do some mural restoration this summer."

The alley lighting project echoes the Alliance's work supporting a clean, safe, welcoming downtown for businesses, residents, and visitors. The City and PBIA reached out to the Alliance's Executive Director, Todd Cutts, who agreed they would administer the program. $30,000 in funds from the City and PBIA were used to identify target alleys, reach out to businesses and property owners for permission to attach lighting, purchase and install necessary lights. The first section was lit in February 2023, with more to come.

"There are so many fine details that make up a vibrant place," says Cutts. "This project is a great example of placemaking and aligns with the Alliance's goal of imagemaking. We're thrilled to lend a hand."

Melissa Hammond is the Chair of PBIA. "The alley lights are so near and dear to my heart and a project I've envisioned for years being an established nighttime business owner. PBIA was excited to spend some recovery funding illuminating Downtown! It felt metaphoric for how we wanted to invigorate our community coming out of a pandemic."

"I believe lighting up public space in a creative and compassionate way creates a sense of magic and feelings of wonder," says Hammond, "while also highlighting clear paths to busy streets for patrons of businesses and brightening community spaces for safety. Our alleys are under-utilized and add such character to our city."

She, too, praises the partnerships which brought this to light and life, so to speak. "The additional funding from the city's economic development gave the project more depth and viability, and having a partnership with the Alliance's management of this project really brought the idea to life. Looking forward to the additional alley lighting going up this month. It has been a team effort downtown, and I'd say a successful one."

Come downtown and enjoy the new lighting at one of the Alliance's many events like Downtown for the Holidays!, LoveOly WinterFest and SummerFest, or Music in the Park. Follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates and information. Read more about PBIA's work downtown through their newsletter. Then shop, sip, explore, and delight in all Olympia offers.

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