Lacey Mid-Town: An Innovation District

One of the many effective tools of economic development is placemaking: creating an environment that is attractive, welcoming, engaging, and makes people want to gather. Many successful historic downtowns are examples of successful placemaking.

Most of Lacey developed well after World War II, and was incorporated as a city in 1966: a time when most downtowns were declining.  As a result, Lacey never had a true traditional downtown.  Instead, Lacey has a well-treed, walkable, centrally-located area, dominated by offices, surrounded by retail, some multifamily housing, a park that hosts many of the city’s outdoor events throughout the year, and the beautiful university campus of St. Martin’s University (SMU).  All of this provides the “bones” for a great heart of the city.  With the addition on the new Lacey campus of South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC), and through a partnership between the College and the Thurston Economic Development Council (EDC), the Center for Business and Innovation was launched in the area.  The area further benefits from the newly-relocated Lacey South Sound Chamber of Commerce, the Veterans Service Hub, and proximity to both Lacey City Hall, and the Lacey Library.

Recognizing this, the City began a public engagement process to rebrand the area, and make the public-sector investments needed to accelerate the efforts at placemaking.  The steering committee recommended to the City Council that the district be identified as the Lacey Innovation District; a name that would capture the unique assets of the district. (An innovation district is defined as a geographic area where institutions and companies cluster and connect with start-ups, business incubators and accelerators.)

The steering committee agreed that the district has the elements of an innovation district and moved the name forward to Council as a recommendation. Though Council generally agreed that the district meets the definition of an innovation district, they also felt the name lacked warmth and did not represent all that the area has to offer in terms of family and community activities. Based on an alternative suggestion, the idea for “Lacey Midtown: An Innovation District” was born and adopted by the City Council at a work session on September 19, 2019.

The new name builds off key investments in the area by SMU, SPSCC, MJR Development (The Hub at Lacey), and the addition of the Lacey MakerSpace. It will also help develop an identity for the area, encourage business development, and provide Lacey residents a place to learn, earn, live, and create.

To learn more about Lacey Midtown, and read the Executive Summary of the full report, please click here.

February 4, 2020
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