A community center will be a shot in the arm for Enumclaw’s downtown | The Ginger Journalist

Cities either grow or die — this is our opportunity to invest in Enumclaw’s future.

I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard to buy someone two beers.

Next week is the vote for the proposed Enumclaw community center — a $19.5 million bond to cover the estimated $21.5 million project that will put a new senior center, a full-sized gym, fresh Arts Alive! space for local artists, a new Chamber of Commerce office to help local businesses (have you seen that space during events? You can barely get through the door), more room for the city’s Parks and Rec department (so it can hopefully expand its popular K-5 indoor sports programs and summer camps), and several other amenities at the western edge of the downtown corridor.

Frankly, this is a thrilling prospect. In my nearly 10 years here at the paper, I can’t recall being so excited for a development like this.

In fact, when was the last time the city of Enumclaw presented the opportunity to make such a large investment into this community? At least, an investment that we can all see — city staff and elected officials approve many projects that make Enumclaw a great place to live, but many of those are behind-the-scenes, or feel far less impressive than a community center (I think only a few people can get pumped over a new wastewater pump station, no matter how important it is).

There might be a lot of local news here, but I walk downtown rather often, and it’s a pretty static place right now. Occasionally, a business closes, or another opens; and we have one building to be built on Cole and Myrtle, but I think that’s going to be office space. Woo.

The Cole Street closures, as much as I didn’t personally attend, were good for bringing activity downtown, but that project has come to an end. I’m waiting to see if the Enumclaw Business Owners Collective will have enough energy (and funds) to continue organizing once-monthly street closures with fun events to draw people back to our restaurants, breweries, and shops when the weather gets reliably dry and warm. Until then, it seems many local business rely on summer events to make it through the rest of the year.

That’s unsustainable, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about cities in this last decade, it’s that they either grow, or they die.

And the community center is a way to grow Enumclaw and revive downtown, and not just in a small way.

I hope you can see the opportunities I see here: open and organized play for basketball, badminton, volleyball, and other indoor sports for kids and adults; more room for local artists to hone their craft and show off their work; a senior center that has a modern kitchen and more room for programs that the 65-year-old population don’t just want (pool, pinochle, BINGO) but need (personal physical and mental health care, tax aid, and hot meals and social interaction); a covered space for events like the farmer’s market (I go every week, but when the sun is beating down, I grab my pre-made stir fry mix and book it) and city-organized concerts; and a space where people can just chill while they shop downtown.

I understand the concerns about this project, but I think the end result will ultimately benefit Enumclaw as a whole far more than these worries and individual impacts.

For example, it’s been widely said that taxes are already too high, and some people can’t even afford the average $12.50 a month it would take to build the community center, especially seniors on a fixed income. As a city resident, that tax will affect me, and not in a small way (sorry, did you think a teacher and journalist make bank?) — but it’s worth it to invest in my community.

And for seniors, King County has property tax deferral and exemption programs (read the page one story in this edition for more information).

Plus, I believe that the city will work tirelessly to find other revenue streams to support this project and reduce the taxpayer burden, and that it has already worked diligently to present the community with a project that doesn’t break the bank and have unnecessary bills and whistles. (As Councilmember Anthony Wright has said many, many times, this isn’t the Taj Mahal.)

Another criticism is that the current design of the community center is ugly, or doesn’t fit Enumclaw’s aesthetic.

But we can’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Whatever the final design will be (it’s not set in stone, and there will be more opportunity for residents to weigh in), there’s no way it’ll be perfect. One person’s trash is another’s treasure, after all.

And speaking of perfect, some critics say the community center won’t be as popular as supporters claim it will be. Will less people use the gym than we hope? Will fewer events be hosted there than expected? Will operation and maintenance costs be more than projected? Maybe.

But maybe not, and that’s where I’m putting my money — which includes betting one of our elected officials that if the bond passes by 60%, I get a beer; but if it passes by more than 70%, I buy him two.

So here’s hoping that at the end of the month, and after putting out signs, organizing street rallies, and doorbelling (so much doorbelling), there will three beers at sitting on a Cole Street Brewery table, and that next year, Enumclaw can celebrate a return on this investment.

Now get out and vote!