Previously, I characterized the downtown as inconsistently zoned, poorly profiled for investment and renewal, and under-performing in terms of its current zoning. Given that, the City Council should consider Condition Two.
The downtown is old and partially ugly. Most of the buildings we like best are around 100 years old. The old Peninsula Hotel (now a restaurant and shops), the Harbor Inn (now offices), and the old Blanton’s dimestore (now Kelly’s) are fixtures. Sooner or later, one of these places will catch fire, like the Wine and Candles shop did years go. And the next time, Fire District #5 might not be so fortunate.
Moreover, the 1950s era buildings, including the strip mall were never the hallmark of a quality downtown. You’ve probably noticed that the 1960s façade on the eastside of Pioneer was seriously sagging, although it has been recently repaired. And then, there’s that long, uninterrupted, straight-shot down Pioneer. (Hint: put a roundabout at Judson and Pioneer; break the downhill run.)
When it’s time for all these elements of the downtown to be upgraded or re-developed, the code should encourage quality investment. I suggest city council members dredge up the vertical zoning concept or something akin, so that small, first-floor retail has an enhanced future in the downtown core.
Have you ever noticed that there are three perspectives about urban development? (Usually, we think of two: growth and no-growth.) One viewpoint is that robust business activity will resolve all needs. Another viewpoint is that quality development and long-term sustainability require thoughtful design standards and zoning regulation. A third viewpoint is that urban structure and landscape have developed slowly over decades and need to be preserved. In reality, all these viewpoints are important. Moreover, these viewponts are blended in practiced, although people think of them or treat them as if they are separate and distinct objectives. The real question is are they reasonably balanced.
Are these three viewpoints balanced in downtown Gig Harbor?
I think there is one more unusual downtown condition to consider.