Prominent Olympia developer Walker John is ready to bring a mixed-use development to a Port of Olympia-owned parcel near East Bay.
But how will the project work in the context of projected sea-level rise?
That was the question Olympia resident Bev Bassett asked the port commission Monday after they received an overview of the project from Mike Reid, the port’s senior manager of business development.
John wants to bring market-rate apartments, townhomes, retail space and covered parking to a port-owned parcel at State Avenue and Jefferson Street. The port commission will weigh a long-term ground lease for the project and an option to explore further development on the surrounding site in late November or December.
Bassett said that in 50 to 80 years, the land near East Bay is expected to be underwater.
“How much water is a different matter,” she said. “But if the port continues to own the property, it will become our problem. The responsibility for that thing will fall to taxpayers.”
The port is not ignoring the prospect of sea-level rise, said Rachel Jamison, environmental programs director for the port. Next year’s port budget includes $75,000 for a joint study on sea-level rise that the port will undertake with the city of Olympia and LOTT Clean Water Alliance.
“We all take it very seriously and are planning to work collaboratively to address it,” Jamison said.
Port Executive Director Ed Galligan said an interlocal agreement on the sea-level rise study is set to come before the commission.
Reid pointed out that John will have to get his building permits from the city of Olympia.
“One thing the city has done in the past is to account for sea-level rise in the permitting process,” he said. For example, when the Hands on Children’s Museum was built nearby, they brought in extra fill to elevate the building.
Some at the meeting question the wisdom of bringing residences to a largely commercial area.
Former port longshore worker Tim Knittle said the project itself is great, but if people living there begin to complain about trucks or noise generated by the port, it could hurt the business of the port.
“That really needs to be thought out,” he said.
Reid said the proposed development is near a truck route, a low-tide area and a wastewater treatment facility.
“We’re telling John that and he needs to tell his tenants as well,” he said.