Isthmus project redrawn

Mixed Use: Changes avoid working through shoreline amendment process

October 30, 2009 

OLYMPIA - Triway Enterprises has scaled back its plan for one building on the downtown isthmus and modified its plan for another in a site plan submitted to the city last week.

The South Sound developer proposes one 35-foot-tall retail/office building and a 90-foot retail/condominium building, a change from its original concept of two mixed-use buildings with condos – one between 42 and 65 feet high and one at 90 feet.

Under the new plan, the retail/condo building would contain 141 condominiums – the same number distributed in the two buildings under the old plan. The addresses are listed as 505 and 529 Fourth Ave. W.

Triway is calling the development Larida Passage, after the Latin name for the Olympia oyster, which once was processed in the area.

“It turned out really, really beautifully,” said Jeanette Hawkins, a project manager for Triway and a former City Council member.

She said the developer made the change to avoid going through the state Department of Ecology Shoreline Master Program amendment process, which could take years. The original plan would have been subject to the process because a portion is within the state shoreline boundary that caps building heights at 35 feet, unless an exception is made.

The city applied to go through the process. “We don’t know yet” whether the application will continue, said Keith Stahley, director of city community planning and development.

Triway’s application, which was filed Oct. 21, shows the office/retail building with 49,086 square feet and the retail/condo building to the east with 273,233 square feet of retail and residential space, as well as 413 structured parking spaces.

The 141 condo units would range from studios with 840 square feet to three-bedroom units with 3,000 square feet, Hawkins said.

“There will be a lot of different shapes and configurations for people to choose from,” she said. The units would be high-end, but Hawkins said it’s too soon to talk about selling prices.

Hawkins said there was no loss of square footage in the new configuration compared with the old one; there’s more office space. The Tacoma architectural firm BCRA designed the buildings.

Features include a rooftop gathering place and a water feature. Several elements the city required in its rezoning are part of it, such as a public viewing platform on the building and bicycle and pedestrian access.

As it moves through the city’s process, modifications to the plan could happen.

The Design Review Board, a city advisory committee, will examine the plans at a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 10 in Council Chambers, 900 Plum St. S.E.

Triway’s changes aren’t likely to satisfy opponents of the project, who have fought bitterly to prevent it. They say the buildings would block views of Budd Inlet and the state Capitol dome.

“This clearly rekindles the controversy and ups the stakes in the (council) elections even more for those on both sides of the issue,” said Gerald Reilly, chairman of the Olympia Isthmus Park Association.

He wants the area to be purchased as a public park.

After multiple public hearings, the Olympia City Council in December rezoned a portion of the isthmus to allow 42-, 65- and 90-foot buildings for housing in particular areas, with conditions. But the council approved the zoning, not Triway’s conceptual plan for new buildings. Triway did not file its building plans until Oct. 21.

Opponents also have a court challenge and an appeal to the state Growth Management Hearings Board.

Hawkins describes the buildings as things of beauty to look on, not an obstruction. She and other supporters of the buildings say they’re important for the economic development and vitality of downtown.

“Larida Passage will serve as a catalyst for the creation of a downtown market-rate housing district,” according to a Triway news release. “Market studies over the past decade have all concluded that a pioneer housing project located on a high-amenity site in downtown will successfully prove the housing market and alleviate risk for future housing developments.”

The project will bring in $1.3 million in one-time tax revenue to the city and more than $300,000 in annual tax revenue, according to Triway. New residents would also contribute to the downtown economy, supporters say.

NEXT STEPS

There still are several hurdles before Triway’s application can be approved. In addition to the Design Review Board’s consideration, the developer would need approval from Olympia’s hearing examiner on the height and the Shoreline Substantial Development Permit, Stahley said. His decision on both items can be appealed, Stahley said.

The city will accept public comments on the proposal until Nov. 30. There will also likely be a neighborhood meeting about the topic between now and then, Stahley said.

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