Housing boom returns to Yelm

Development has picked up in the city that doubled in population from 2000-2010

rboone@theolympian.comJuly 13, 2013 

Growth has returned to one of the fastest-growing communities in Thurston County, reawakening building activity at once-dormant subdivisions and bringing new commercial tenants to town.

That community is the city of Yelm, which doubled in population between 2000 and 2010, according to U.S. census data.

But like most communities, Yelm felt the effects of the slower economy, particularly as it related to the real estate market.

That’s not evident today, said Grant Beck, who has spent 10 years with the city as its community development department director.

Driving Yelm’s growth, both recent and current, is the city’s proximity to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, providing a home for those who serve and work at the base.

Another is that the inventory of available homes for sale has fallen to new lows.

Late last year the number of homes for sale in the county fell under 1,000 units for the first time in years. Those numbers have since climbed to about 1,100.

So far through June, the city has issued 74 single-family building permits, with another 30 under review, compared with a total of 114 for all of 2012, Beck said.

More multifamily construction is underway, too, including the Creek Road mixed-use apartments.

Ninety of 200-some apartments are under construction and it also has about 7,000 square feet of commercial space, he said.

But what really stands out in Beck’s mind is that local builders are snapping up vacant lots at some of the nine subdivisions in the city, or they have purchased entirely vacant subdivisions — essentially just raw dirt because the once-proposed subdivision was left for dead once the housing market went bust.

One of those is a former nine-lot subdivision called Fairway Estates that has been purchased by a local builder who has so far put in roads and utilities, Beck said.

Another is a subdivision called Cherry Meadows, which has become a kind of symbol for the rise, fall and rise again in real estate, he said.

So far about half of its 202 lots have been developed, according to city data.

Cherry Meadows got off the ground in 2003-2004, selling its lots then for $35,000 to $40,000. Lot prices rose to a high of $100,000 during the boom and then fell again, Beck said.

Cherry Meadows now is being developed by Freestone Communities of Fife.

Commercial projects in Yelm include a renovated and expanded McDonald’s, a new dollar store and a new LimeBerry frozen yogurt.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 rboone@theolympian.com theolympian.com/bizblog

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