Three teams vie to design, build new Capitol Campus building

bshannon@theolympian.comNovember 13, 2013 

  • PUBLIC MEETING

    What: Open house on new Capitol Campus building.

    When: 7-8:30 p.m. Thursday

    Where: Presentation room at the 1500 Jefferson Street building. Park at Jefferson Street and Maple Park Avenue.

    More: Enterprise Services expects to hold an additional meeting after the top design-build team is chosen in late January. Final design decisions will follow and a contract awarded in late April.

    For more details: Go to des.wa.gov or send an email to 1063blockproject@des.wa.gov.

Three construction and architectural teams are in the running to design an office building that eventually could hold the Washington State Patrol and smaller state agencies along the north edge of the Capitol Campus in Olympia.

The Legislature this year authorized $82 million in financing to allow an innovative design-build process to move forward. The project is a major redevelopment of an entire city block that borders Capitol Way, and it requires the demolition of a parking garage and two-story office structure that formerly housed a children’s museum.

“It’s aging, it’s falling apart, it’s underutilized. The concept of redeveloping this block is good,” said state Sen. Karen Fraser, D-Thurston County, who along with Thurston County Democratic Reps. Chris Reykdal and Sam Hunt have been looking for a way to rehab the block and get rid of the aging General Administration Building next door.

Fraser said she is urging architects to keep in mind how high the building might stand at the gateway between the Capitol Campus and downtown. She also thinks the project should have street-level retail space on at least the Capitol Way side, and she wants a closer look at impacts on local traffic and the loss of 207 parking spaces.

In a bid to take mystery out of the proposed four- to five-story building project, Enterprise Services has scheduled a community meeting Thursday to explain what is in store and get feedback from the public about what the architects should keep in mind.

Rick Browning, project director for Enterprise Services, has described the site as a “hinge” point between the Capitol Campus monuments and downtown Olympia. Others have cautioned against letting the project become a wall between the two areas.

“It’s a critical location because it’s one of the entrances to the Capitol Campus. … It’s important to our community because we live with it every day,” said former Olympia mayor Bob Jacobs, who has been active on Capitol Campus decisions and played a role in development of Heritage Park on the lower campus. “It needs to be a high quality building. … The only thing I’m concerned about at this point is height, setbacks and step backs.’’

Connie Lorenz, executive director of the Olympia Downtown Association, has hopes for the project too, because it would keep state employees in the city rather than relocate them to Lacey or Tumwater.

“I think in the long run it would be a good thing. The more we can keep (operations) in Olympia and on the campus, the better,” Lorenz said.

But she also has some trepidation, because she doesn’t want to see a city block left vacant for too long if the project gets drawn out. Demolition is scheduled to start in early 2015 and a finished product is due in the fall of 2016.

As outlined by state Rep. Hans Dunshee, the Snohomish Democrat who put the project into the capital budget this year, the new building is part of a multistep effort to move agencies such as the State Patrol out of the old General Administration building and eventually to demolish the GA structure.

The proposed building would have 200,000 to 250,000 square feet of space. It must meet environmental performance standards for energy efficiency. And the total lease cost for agencies must be less than $26 per square foot including debt costs and maintenance.

But what the “1063 block project” will actually look like won’t likely be known until late January. That is when preliminary design proposals and bids are due from the three teams of architects and construction firms selected by Enterprise Services last month.

The finalists include Mortenson Construction, a Minneapolis-based firm with a Kirkland office that oversaw the more than $100 million Legislative Building renovation and repairs a decade ago. Mortenson is working with Portland-based architects SRG Partnership.

A second finalist team is a joint venture of Hoffman Construction of Portland, Belay Architecture of Tacoma and GBD Architects of Portland. The third team is a joint venture of Sellen Construction Co. of Seattle and ZGF Architects of Portland, which has an office in Seattle. The winning designer will be given a construction contract by April 25.

Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688 bshannon@theolympian.com

Updated to clarify that demolition would begin in early 2015.

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