One could seem to be cynical and callous to question plans for a new Youth Theatre Northwest along with an expanded Youth and Family Services Thrift Shop. Both are, of course, noble enterprises. Both serve our Island’s youth and enrich our community.
Boosters say that a new Youth Theatre Northwest could be built on the old recycling center land with the adjacent Bicentennial Park. They say that the site is not (technically) in the park, but outside the perimeter in an area now screened by trees. An expansion of the thrift store will increase sales and funding for the city’s Youth and Family Services. It will definitely be in the park. Both ideas represent new opportunities for their organizations and mission. But they will come with trade-offs.
The neighborhoods and businesses surrounding the park will be affected by either or both of these plans. Parking and traffic from the thrift store already spills over into the Mercerdale neighborhood as shoppers and park users juggle for limited parking. There are strollers, cyclists, boarders, walkers and dogs competing with cars in the lot and on the street. For those parked and pointed the wrong direction, U-turns are the favored way to head back to 78th Avenue S.E.
In addition, a proposed lane for donation drop-offs will turn west off a sometimes very busy 78th Avenue S.E. about halfway between S.E. 32nd and S.E. 34th Streets, across from the Covenant Church parking lot and professional offices next door.
YTN hopes that the community will embrace the theater. They say that there should be little impact on the community during the day and that parents who drop off and pick up kids will not affect traffic flow and parking. They suggest that more parking can be added along S.E. 32nd Street and 77th Avenue S.E., and that Town Center patrons could walk in the evening to the park.
Leaving aside the issue of city/park land handed over to an essentially private enterprise, we are all for shared facilities, walking, shopping and the theater, etc. But there absolutely needs to be a traffic and parking study before any further moves are made.