College, Olympia port to buy state property

Surplus land: SPSCC to buy office park in Lacey

bshannon@theolympian.comAugust 22, 2012 

The state is selling off two parcels of surplus property it owns in downtown Olympia, and the Port of Olympia has signed a tentative agreement to snap up the real estate.

In a deal expected to be approved today, the port would buy two surplus properties near the Olympia Farmers Market for $925,000. The parcels, which total about 2.1 acres, belong to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and include a small office space along Washington Street and a larger warehouse that would likely be torn down.

In a second deal also poised for approval, South Puget Sound Community College wants to buy the Rowesix Office Park near downtown Lacey for a future satellite campus. A preliminary agreement approved in June by the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges set a maximum price of $4.08 million for the five-building complex, which has 97,623 square feet of commercial space on eight acres of land, according to state documents.

The property at 4224 Sixth Ave. S.E. is owned by a limited-liability corporation – TIC Rowesix Offices, LLC, which lists 32 different owners, according to the state. The Thurston County Assessor’s Office reports a value on the land and buildings of $5.88 million.

PORT WANTS MORE PARKING SPACE

Port executive director Ed Galligan said his agency is interested in acquiring additional parking space near the farmers market to meet changing needs in the city’s north downtown.

“We really need parking for the farmers market and development down there,” Galligan said. “We’ve been shifting vendors back and forth down there every time a situation comes up.’’

Galligan said the larger of the two parcels on Northeast Washington Street would be resold immediately to LOTT Clean Water Alliance for storage tanks to handle overflows during storms at its stormwater and sewer treatment facility. The preliminary purchase agreement lists the value of the latter parcel at $550,000.

The port’s property deal has been kept a bit under wraps, but Galligan said the port’s interest in the properties has been publicly known for years. A staff presentation to the Olympia Port Commission is planned Monday.

A long-term possibility for one or both of the parcels could be a parking structure. Galligan said there also has been interest – going back as far as five years – in developing the Fish and Wildlife property in such a way. One vision, which drew private developers’ interest before the recent economic downturn, would have put retail shops on the street level and parking on upper floors, Galligan said.

STATE APPROVAL NEEDED

Today’s action on the proposed sale will be by the State Capitol Committee, which meets at 10 a.m. in the Legislative Building. The committee is a four-member panel that acts as the final word on Capitol Campus developments, including the placement of public buildings, signage and related matters.

Its voting members are Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, state budget director Marty Brown (acting for Gov. Chris Gregoire), Secretary of State Sam Reed and Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark.

Steve Valandra, spokesman for the state’s landlord agency, the Department of Enterprise Services, said state law requires that the Capitol Committee approve the property transfers. He said no objections to the proposed sales are expected.

Galligan and Mike Reid, senior manager of business development at the port, say their agreement with the state gives them a six-month window to investigate environmental concerns and costs that might arise as they look further into the property.

The surplus parcels are among the handful of unneeded properties the state could sell if it finds a willing buyer. Gregoire had proposed selling off the Fish and Wildlife parcels in recent budgets, but by law, the state must offer the public properties to government agencies first, Valandra said.

The state has a third Fish and Wildlife parcel along Capitol Way in downtown Olympia that contains offices still in use. Olympia City Manager Steve Hall says the city doesn’t have money at this time to purchase that $1.5 million lot and building, but it is seeking a grant from the Department of Ecology to explore the environmental conditions at the site for a possible future purchase.

“It’s a really important piece of property in our downtown’s redevelopment,’’ Hall said, suggesting the city could potentially team up with a private developer to get a housing project going. “Our ideal is a mixed-use development with some market-rate housing and some retail – probably ground-floor retail.’’

The third parcel has 14,500 square feet of offices on 0.56 of an acre of land.

COLLEGE NEEDS MORE ROOM

South Puget Sound Community College’s proposed purchase requires Capitol Committee approval, according to Valandra of DES, because it is outside what the state’s master Capitol Campus plan considers “preferred leasing” areas for state-operated buildings in Thurston County.

The college is getting cramped on its west Olympia campus, and SPSCC spokeswoman Kellie Purce Braseth said the purchase near downtown Lacey is a step toward relieving that crowding. She said SPSCC doesn’t expect to find enough money in the next decade to develop a 55-acre site it already owns farther east at Hawks Prairie.

Braseth said the Hawks Prairie site would not be abandoned even as the school moves ahead with its purchase of the Sixth Avenue property. She indicated the new site would go into use when the lease ends in 2015 for temporary space currently leased by the college at Hawks Prairie.

“We’re not abandoning the dream but we are facing the reality that basically with the economic situation and the capital (funding) situation … we probably won’t be able to build a second campus from the ground up for at least a decade,’’ Braseth said. “But we are still committed … to a long-term plan to build a permanent campus in Lacey.’’

College President Gerald Pumphrey is scheduled to give a presentation on the project to the committee. Materials prepared for the committee say the Lacey property has no identified environmental problems.

bshannon@theolympian.com 360-753-1688 www.theolympian.com/politicsblog @BradShannon2

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