A balancing act: Olympia tries to maintain iconic ‘feel’ while encouraging growth

OLYMPIA -- More and more people are moving to the region every day.

Our capitol city is no exception.

Olympia has expanded between 1 and 2 percent every year since 2014, making it one of the fastest growing areas in one of the fastest growing states in the country.

It's not expected to slow down either, according to Olympia Economic Development Director Mike Reid.

"Our growth projections have Olympia growing by about 20,000 residents over the next 20 years," Reid said.

But with new people is the fear of losing the city's iconic charm. Reid said the city is trying to grow fast to meet new demand, building up downtown. About 400 apartment and condo units are under construction near the city's core.

The fast pace is brewing up questions for some local business owners. Many business owners approve of growth, but it needs to be done right.

"No development is bad, that doesn't mean all development is good," said Sam Schroeder, the co-owner of the Olympia Coffee Roasting Company.

Both Reid and Schroeder said the current model of converting unused parking lots to apartments and vacant buildings to condos has worked well. To this point, they said, it's kept the city's "feel."

"There's a lot of room for development in downtown Olympia that doesn't develop in a way that erases our history," Schroeder said.

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