Wells Fargo building

The Ellensburg City Council unanimously voted to authorize the Rotary Plaza purchase and sale agreement.

It’s been considered a critical piece of downtown property for years and the Ellensburg City Council finally made it official Monday night with a unanimous vote to authorize the Rotary Plaza purchase and sale agreement.

The city has been subleasing the property located at 110 East Fourth and Pearl Street, approximately 22,500 square feet, through Wells Fargo. The city has been looking into ways to maximize the space for community use and to expand tourism programming opportunities and finally decided to purchase the property owned by Red Mountain Holding Co.

“It’s been in the conversation to the integrity of our downtown for quite some time,” mayor Bruce Tabb said. “Not just the park, but the downtown community.”

Funding is secured with $400,000 dedicated from the Lodging Tax Capital Grant Program and the remaining $399,000 from cash balance in the City’s Park Acquisition Fund.

Rotary Pavilion has been a beacon, a gathering point, for such community projects as Jazz in the Valley, Hoedown in Downtown, the Farmer’s Market and the Rodeo Kickoff Breakfast for years.

Since the city took over the entirety of the property under the sublease, it has created more downtown parking in the drive-through area and allowed the Kittitas County Chamber of Commerce to use the former bank building for a visitor center during summer weekends and events.

“It’s been a long time in coming,” City Attorney and Assistant City manager Terry Weiner said, “and I think it’s very good for the city.”

The purchase of the Rotary Pavilion and surrounding property is just one more step in downtown development, which also includes a state grant to continue Phase II of the Ramsey Building, the renovation of the Elks Building and subsequent building of The Hotel Windrow and Basalt, a 59-room, four-story hotel and restaurant.

In other action, the city of Ellensburg has issued two request for proposals (RFP) for the Affordable Housing construction plan for two city-owned, designated properties at Bender and Water Street and the Community Garden property. The proposals are calling for bids from both the public and private sectors for new affordable housing construction.

“I’m delighted with where we are at this point in the process,” said Ellensburg city council member Nancy Goodloe, who chairs the Affordable Housing Committee. “We’ve spent hours and hours trying to figure out something that’s never been done before.

“We’re not trying to put barriers in front of people, but we’ve trying to best use public money, trying to be fair to everyone involved. I know there are going to be bumps along the way, but I’m very happy with the process.”

It’s been a work in progress since the Affordable Housing Committee was formulated last year. The city put a 0.1 percent sales tax in place in April of 2018, which is expected to bring in $450,000 to $500,000 a year to affordable housing projects.

When the council redid the land development code a few years ago, it added density bonuses for the creation of affordable housing developments. According to city code, a density bonus increase is based on the percentage of affordable housing units integrated into a subdivision, with a minimum of 15 percent to qualify and maximum bonus increase of 50 percent.

“I think it’s good to finally be able to put it out there and hopefully we get a number of responses from both the (non-profit) and public sectors,” said Tabb, who has been very active in the affordable housing process.

“I think we’re still learning, but this is a chance to help people that have been priced out of the market find a decent place to live.”

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