The Olympia City Council voted 6-0 Tuesday to amend a master plan for the city's first urban village, which has hit a construction roadblock in recent years because of the economy.
Located at Henderson Boulevard and Yelm Highway, Briggs Village is a 133-acre mixed-use development with commercial and retail space. The project has been in the works since 1994, when the city included Briggs Village in its comprehensive plan with the Growth Management Act in mind.
Construction began in 2005, but has slowed to a crawl since the recession hit.
The urban village concept emphasizes higher density neighborhoods that reduce reliance on automobiles while encouraging residents to walk or bike to nearby businesses. The Briggs Village was originally designed to feature 224,000 square feet of commercial office and retail space along with 810 residential units.
Although hundreds of apartments and single-family homes have been built so far, the commercial side of the plan is nearly non-existent, aside from the Briggs YMCA facility at the site.
The amendment will reduce the amount of planned commercial office space by more than half - just under 95,000 square feet - to reflect the current market demand for such spaces.
Former mayor Bob Jacobs, who was on the City Council when the master plan was approved in 2003, urged the council to reject what he called a "short-sighted proposal."
"Long-term plans based on short-term conditions are a very bad idea," Jacobs said Tuesday, noting that the economy is showing signs of recovery to pre-recession levels. "Land use regulations should address long-term conditions and visions."
Michael Cade, executive director of the Thurston County Economic Development Council, said Briggs Village has the potential to be a successful project that acts as a magnet for more development.
"Projects like Briggs Village are shining examples of innovative thinking," Cade told the council. "They do set the tone for our future."
The amendment allows the future commercial buildings to be built one story high, instead of the originally proposed two or three stories. Strict design guidelines also call for consistency in heights, storefronts and facades.
The residential units will remain at 810. However, some of the units intended as apartments will instead be built as townhomes and condominiums. There will also be fewer residential units located above businesses, decreasing from 26 to 10 housing units, according to the amendments.
Councilwoman Jeannine Roe was absent Tuesday.
Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869 or firstname.lastname@example.org