Thurston County’s commissioners are trying to decide what to do with the old Tyson Seafood building, bought for $3.8 million in 1998 with the goal of remodeling it into a jail.
The building at 3400 Mottman Road SW in Tumwater didn’t end up being a viable option for a jail and the county opted to build the Accountability and Restitution Center.
The county hasn’t found the 65,000-square-foot warehouse to be suitable for housing other county functions, such as customer service, elections or records.
What it comes down to, said Central Services Director Martin Casey, is that the building is most useful as a warehouse. But the county doesn’t really need a warehouse.
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The building is being used by the county for storage and a portion is leased to Quixote Village, a community of tiny houses to provide shelter for the homeless.
“There definitely are some strong potential uses for it,” Casey said. “But those are all aligned with the purpose for which is was built, which is light manufacturing, industrial warehouse space. The county’s needs for that aren’t as substantial as to warrant maintaining that entire space as warehouse space.”
Last week, Casey briefed the Thurston County Board of Commissioners about the building, commonly referred to as the 3400 Building. Further discussion about the building is on the commissioners’ early Tuesday meeting agenda.
County Manager Cliff Moore said the commissioners could make a decision about the building Tuesday — or they could wait and make a decision after other building-related issues are resolved.
“In my view, there are so many moving parts,” Moore said. “Especially with the whole conversation about a new or remodeled courthouse as yet unresolved.”
Casey said the fate of the 3400 Building could be tied into what the county decides to do about the courthouse and main administrative building.
Officials are considering options: remodeling the current facilities, building an urban county campus near downtown Olympia, building an urban county campus in downtown Olympia or building a suburban county campus.
The 3400 Building could be traded for land to build a new county campus, Casey said.
“The port did express some interest in a land swap last year while talking about options for building new court and county administration facilities,” Casey said. “So we might have that in our back pocket as a tool.”
Alternately, the county could sell the building, Casey said. An appraisal by the county Public Works Department estimated the 3400 Building’s value, without further improvements, at $2.6 million. Beth L. Glander Appraisal Services estimated the building’s value at $4.6 million.
Shawn McDonald, a senior management analyst for the county’s budget office, said the county owes $2.85 million on the building — $2.4 million on bonds used for the initial purchase and $450,000 on bonds used to fund a 2013 roof replacement and seismic upgrade. The 2013 remodel cost $1.93 million.
To eliminate the debt, the building would have to be sold for at least $2.85 million.
Leasing the building is another option that could bring in a considerable amount of revenue for the county, Casey said.
The county was recently contacted by a lease broker, who had two companies that might be interested in renting the space. Both potential renters would add about 30 jobs to Thurston County’s economy.
“It’s very, very preliminary at this point,” Casey said. “And because of confidentiality agreements, we don’t know much about the companies.”
But there are barriers to leasing the building. The first barrier is the bonds, which require at least 90 percent of the site be leased to a state or local government agency.
The 3400 building couldn’t be leased as is, Casey said.
“The building is essentially a shell structure,” Casey said. “They would need (heating, ventilation and air condition) improvements, fire system improvements, security, electrical, plumbing and all of the office spaces would have to be built out for them.”
With the county’s current budget, it would be difficult to fund such improvements, Casey said.
The final option would be to go back to the drawing board and come up with other ways for the county to use the building. But Casey advised against that.
“The county has already invested quite a bit of time and effort in making it a jail, trying to make it a customer services hub, trying to make it a records center,” Casey said.
“We’ve put enough into it, and we keep hanging onto it.”