Downtown housing expands into three buildings

In a slow commercial market, developers are converting offices to apartments

mbatcheldor@theolympian.comAugust 3, 2013 

New downtown housing is slowly and quietly coming to Olympia.

Without fanfare, the Kolb family has added 14 apartments to a formerly all-office property at 402 Legion Way SE, and they’re renovating another 14 apartments in an adjoining building.

This is in addition to 11 apartments that developer Walker John recently added at the nearby Cunningham Building at 325 Fourth Ave E.

“In total, that’s almost 40 units, which is more units than we’ve seen constructed in downtown for a long time,” probably since the Boardwalk Apartments were built in the 1990s, Olympia planning director Keith Stahley said.

Anthony Kolb, son of Olympia developer Bryan Kolb and brother of Damien Kolb, said the family is trying “to provide a nice environment and all the amenities that we would want.”

With the office market stagnant in Olympia, the Kolb family took on an area outside of their commercial real estate expertise: housing. They took on the three-building property at 402 Legion Way, which Bryan Kolb originally developed in the late 1980s and recently reacquired.

Anthony Kolb said the family holds anywhere from six to eight Olympia properties at one time.

They ripped out the drop ceilings from offices on the top two floors in one building at the Legion Way complex, revealing ceilings taller than 11 feet. And they set to work creating 14 one-bedroom apartments. The apartments opened last fall and are all rented.

“And we’re really happy with the way it turned out,” Anthony Kolb said.

The housing is hidden on the top two floors of the building. Each unit has about 600 square feet of space. There is a laundry on each floor, and a gated courtyard with a barbecue grill and picnic tables. Parking is available in a secure, fenced lot.

Anthony Kolb said the building next door will get the same treatment, with 14 more units opening next year.

Kolb said residents like living downtown.

“You’re right in touch with the energy of the city,” he said.

“I think it appeals to everything from a professional to a student to a retiree.”

One of the people it appealed to was Chase Gallagher, a political consultant whose work is usually in Seattle. He chose to live in Olympia and telecommute. The location sold him.

He likes “being able to be downtown and not only having a good location but actually a nice and new apartment, which is almost impossible to find.”

Gallagher can look out his window and see the Fish Tale Brew Pub, where he hosts trivia night. “So it’s a quick and easy little commute,” he said.

Stahley said there are a couple of reasons for the recent burst in downtown housing. First, office rental vacancies are up while apartment vacancies are down.

Second, “I think there’s changing lifestyles, and people are interested in living in walkable urban settings,” he said.

Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 @MattBatcheldor

The Olympian is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service