Critical Junctures

Written By: Carolyn Honeycutt, Executive Director 

So much change. It’s what makes life interesting and surprising. It spurs ideas and success. I love change.

Occasionally I do tours of downtown Ellensburg. Not historic tours, there are people much better at those than me. I do tours for Economic Development folks or people who want to hear more about what’s bringing change to downtown Ellensburg. While I can point to many things that have helped downtown like the street furniture, new events, or a robust tourism office, the one project I can hang my hat on having a direct impact is the Geddis Building.

Imagine being me. New to Ellensburg and the EDA and facing a huge 30,000 square foot building with broken windows and only one business. Vacant buildings are barriers to the downtown, they become places that stop traffic and keep people for venturing further. The creation of “The Downtowners” through the EBDA (Ellensburg Business Development Authority), for which I have been a member since its inception, was a game changer. The group was created to look at major obstacles for downtown success and one of the first places of focus was underutilized buildings.

While for many, the City purchase of the Geddis building seemed to come out of nowhere, there was a great deal of research that happened prior to the purchase. It was a big bold step for the City, but community members came out to City Hall for the discussion and to support the project. Once purchased, with a few upgrades, the building became viable and full of new businesses and new life. It was everything I envisioned could happen and I always say how proud I am to be in a City that takes bold steps and is proactive about downtown.

What’s happened since? So much has happened with new businesses opening up and filling spaces. New living spaces like the Kleinberg Building. Redevelopment of the Elks Building. New buildings like Patricia Place apartments. More new development coming like the new brewery at Moose Lodge, New York Café redevelopment, The Elmira has a new owner and new plans, and more to come. Are there still new challenges with struggling businesses and properties? Absolutely and we are continuing to research creative solutions.

As part of the Arnett Muldrow plan for downtown completed in 2016, The Downtowners are looking at the space that is our gathering spot, the Rotary Pavilion/Wells Fargo lot. It hosts events like Jazz in the Valley, Buskers in the Burg, Moments to Remember, and an expanding calendar of activity. The Chamber Tourism office is adding a Visitor’s Center and will be in charge of the space, making it easier for groups to use. But what it is needed is a vision. What could it be and how can it best serve the community? On September 27 starting at 3:30 pm, the Downtowners will host the Pomegranate Center (http://pomegranatecenter.org/) at Gallery One to present their process on how they can help with a community-driven project to create a true gathering spot for years to come.

So put that date on your calendar and get your creative juices flowing. Are there obstacles for this project? Yes – there are obstacles for anything worth doing. Does that mean we throw in the towel and quit? Heck no. At least that’s not what I’m going to do. Get involved and make a difference with me.