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The city of Ellensburg’s purchase of the the Rotary Pavilion property — which includes the gazebo and adjacent bank drive-through — was an example of taking advantage of opportunity with long-term benefits in mind.

A few years ago, the drive-through closed. The property could’ve been sold or redeveloped for a different purpose. The city had a stake in the situation because it had been leasing a portion of the property for the Rotary Pavilion.

The Rotary Pavilion had become a go-to location for many community and downtown events. But this was more than a case of potentially losing a valuable venue. This was about securing land for a expanded and enhanced downtown park/venue.

Opportunities to secure such property in the center of the downtown core do not occur often.

The side effect of this action was the city suddenly had a new high-visibility park to develop and manage.

We are seeing the early stages of developing this land, some going smoother than others.

The city has not officially named the park, but early indications are there will be some upset with the name choice.

The name choice is important, but it is a local-interest issue that will not impact the purpose of the park. This is not to dismiss the local issue angle because local people are paying for the park. But the key to whether the park is successful and worthy of public investment is how it’s developed.

The first step in development is dismantling the drive-through portion of the old bank building — the part being used as a visitor center will remain at this time. If the demolition plan proceeds through the city process, it is slated to start June 1.

One of the quirky elements of this property was the drive-through was a single-use building. It is possible another tenant or purchaser would have had use for a multiple lane, bank-style drive-through, but chances are that building was changing.

Obviously, losing the drive-through bays will open up that property. The next question would be how much of the lot remains paved?

Right now the lot is used for parking and it will remain so until decisions are made for land. The mix of pavement and grass comes down to what uses are envisioned. Right now it gets used as a music venue for Jazz in the Valley and the Hoedown in the Downtown. As nice as grass sounds, if you are looking at large crowds (typically with a beer garden), do you want a surface that holds up better to use and abuse?

But if you’re thinking that the park would be nice of people to enjoy during their lunch hour then a grassy area sounds appealing.

All this is to say, while the name of the park will be important, what the park looks like and how it is designed for the multitude of uses envisioned will determine its success as a public facility.


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