In 1999, city officials began a focus group with community stakeholders in the Taft District, a process that became an enduring model for the city's urban planning.
"We were the first business to blow your own floats," says Kelly Howard.
But this success hasn’t been easy. In 2001 the city bought the building from Tom Litfin, whose business, Litfin Motors, went under after he agreed to sell his parking lot for the city to build a street. At first Litfin liked the idea of downsizing: He planned to have one auto bay and open a hamburger shop, advertising as “Hubcaps and Hamburgers” so people could grab a burger and watch mechanics repair cars. But the idea never took hold. Once the street was built, the lack of parking took customers away from his auto repair shop and Litfin asked the city to buy his building.
Once the building was acquired, city officials needed to figure out what to do with it. No one’s sure but most believe it was Kurt Olsen, the tall soft-spoken 59-year-old director of the Lincoln City Urban Renewal Agency, who first proposed to build a glass foundry. In 2000, Lincoln City had put 2,000 glass floats on the beach as a tourist draw. The glass floats had attracted lots of visitors but the idea was expensive; since there was no foundry in town they were buying the floats elsewhere.
Having a foundry, though, wasn’t as innovative as what came next. “We were the first business to blow your own floats,” says Howard. “Now all the other glass blowers on the Coast are doing it.”