Just this past summer Grammy nominee and Central Washington University alum Bruce Babad was standing center stage at the Rotary Pavilion entertaining the masses at the 22nd annual Jazz in the Valley.

Buskars in the Burg performers have busted a move in that very same spot at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Pearl Street for years. The Rotary Pavilion has been as much a part of Ellensburg downtown as the historic buildings surrounding it, even though the city of Ellensburg didn’t actually own the property.

Now that the city is in the process of purchasing the 24,500 square foot lot where the former Wells Fargo Bank drive-through and the Rotary Pavilion are located, the question becomes, “What do we want to do with it?”

The “we” part of that was what planning officials wanted to hear Thursday evening when they listened to thoughts and ideas of the citizens who stopped by to provide input. There were drawings and charts on easels, common generalities taken from Facebook posts and an idea board where the growing crowd in what proved to be a informative gathering could leave their ideas for Parks and Recreation Director Brad Case, who is serving as the Town Center project contact.

“Back home in Virginia, we had a part like this in the center of town where there was live music every week. People would come with their families and sit and listen on the grass,” one woman said to a group bouncing ideas off Case as they stood under the drive-through, clouds looming overhead with the rain that would eventually come. “It was great for downtown having people come in every week, buying food or visiting the shops.”

The idea of a central location for the city-sponsored Concerts in the Park was a point well taken.

“We not going into this with any preconceived ideas of what needs to stay and what needs to go,” Case said. “The purpose of today is to get feedback on what people want to see done and what they don’t want to see. You can build what you think is the greatest park in the world and if nobody uses it, then you’ve missed a great opportunity.

“We’re in the downtown historic corridor, so there’s requirements we have to follow as a result of that. We’re looking for ideas to look at the bigger picture.”

CENTER OF TOWN

Thursday afternoon’s Town Center Pre-Planning gathering was a town hall meeting at the Town Center.

“I grew up in Ellensburg, but I don’t remember anything in particular about this park, and I think that’s telling,” said Cathy Poshusta. “I personally would like to see a water feature and a big grassy area where people can come and enjoy.”

Poshusta and her husband, Garrett, are both second-generation Ellensburgers. They know the history and like the idea their ideas were heard by the city staff on site.

“I would love to see the space activated so that it’s a draw for people to come down to the downtown and spend time in the businesses down here,” Garrett said. “I’d love to see some open space with grass, a place for families to come down and enjoy.”

The city has subleased the property since 1980 and been responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the Rotary Pavilion. A revised lease executed in 2017 identified the city as the management entity for both the pavilion and the Wells Fargo Bank facilities.

It’s hard to say if future plans include taking out the drive-through banking building currently housing the Chamber of Commerce visitor’s center. But it would open up the area to new dimensions and make the area more visual to the surrounding square, Case said.

“This is my third year at Central Washington and I intend to stay to get my masters,” said Savannah Fields, who’s majoring in environmental science at CWU. “I think it’s an opportunity to make more efficient use of our resources.

“I really think this is a really good time to show another side of what the city can do with more native plants, alternative resources and maybe a water feature.”

Right now the city planners are looking at a clean canvas in which to paint the next stage of the downtown district.

For more information about the Town Center project contact Brad Case at caseb@ci.ellensburg.wa.us or (509) 925-8639.

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