WENATCHEE — A little patch of county-owned paradise in downtown Wenatchee will quietly change ownership this week.
Chelan County has owned the ground under Centennial Park since 1992 after acquiring it through foreclosure. But county officials, who aren’t interested in helping pay for Wenatchee’s downtown improvements next year, are giving the land to the city.
The Wenatchee City Council is expected to approve the transfer on Thursday.
The park on Wenatchee Avenue and Yakima Street has a bandshell and hosted the annual Summer Concert Series and numerous fund-raising concerts. Winterfest (formerly Flake Fest) is held at the park, and First United Methodist Church holds outdoor Sunday services each summer.
The patch of ground was formerly the site of the old Columbian Hotel, which burned to the ground in 1988 in a spectacular fire that was intentionally set.
The land eventually ended up in the county’s hands, with an agreement between the city and the county that it would only be used as a park.
Over the years, the Wenatchee Downtown Association led fundraising to build the restrooms, Rotary built the band shell, and Boy Scouts put in the benches and the trees. The city maintains the park.
“It’s really been a community effort,” said Allison Williams, the city’s executive services director.
The city was recently going through the process of verifying ownership of downtown properties as it prepares to create a small taxing district to pay for streetscape improvements. Williams called County Administrator Cathy Mulhall to notify her of what the county would be expected to pay for its share of the improvements, based on the square footage of property fronting Wenatchee Avenue.
County officials came back with the proposal to give the park to the city.
Once the city acquires the park, it’s share of the estimated $700,000 downtown improvement project will be $100,000 because of its ownership for the park and the Convention Center.