Olympia has found a private developer with a plan to rebuild the former Griswold’s office supply building into a residential and commercial property.
Located at 308-310 Fourth Ave. E., the blighted downtown building was heavily damaged by a fire in 2004 and has been vacant since.
The city bought the 0.17-acre property last summer for $300,000 and began pursuing bids for development.
After reviewing two bids, a city-led committee will recommend Big Rock Capital Partners be chosen to build a $3.5 million project at the site.
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The local firm wants to target millennials by offering a collaborative work space on the ground floor for entrepreneurs and young business professionals, for example, while building small market-rate apartments on the top two floors.
The recommendation will be presented to the Olympia City Council for approval Dec. 6. The next steps involve contract negotiations and the sale of the property, which could take place in early 2017. Construction could begin in late 2018, according to the developer.
“Our highest and best interest is to take a blighted property and turn it into a property with an economic use,” said Renee Sunde, the city’s economic development director.
Big Rock intends to secure funding through the federal Housing and Urban Development Section 108 loan program, according to the proposal. Big Rock has been involved in other local projects, including the Thurston County Mental Health Triage Center construction and The Washington Center for the Performing Arts renovations.
The other bidder for the Griswold’s building was Capital Recovery Center, an Olympia-based nonprofit organization that focuses on mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment for low-income residents. That proposal called for a mix of affordable housing units and nonprofit social service tenants such as CRC, the Thurston County Needle Exchange and the Olympia Free Clinic.
The review committee was impressed with Capital Recovery Center’s creative proposal, said Sunde, but the deciding factor came down to a lack of development experience and a stable financing source. The CRC proposal relied on legislative funding and donations.
According to the city’s request for proposals, a main requirement for bidders was to pitch a project that “will return this property to productive economic use quickly.”
“The challenge was not the creativity of the proposal, but the ability to demonstrate the financial capacity to carry it out,” Sunde said.
The Griswold’s building is among several properties in the city’s Community Renewal Area, where the city has expanded power to renovate by entering into deals with private developers.
Other sites in the Community Renewal Area include the blighted properties on the downtown isthmus and the former Reliable Steel property on West Bay Drive.